Who is He? Messiah's Sacrifice
Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12
52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal wisely, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.
52:14 Like as many were astonished at you (his appearance was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men),
52:15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they understand.
53:1 Who has believed our message? To whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?
53:2 For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no good looks or majesty. When we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
53:3 He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him.
53:4 Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted.
53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed.
53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
53:7 He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he didn’t open his mouth.
53:8 He was taken away by oppression and judgment; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living and stricken for the disobedience of my people?
53:9 They made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
53:10 Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him. He has caused him to suffer. When you make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed. He shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Yahweh shall prosper in his hand.
53:11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied. My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself; and he will bear their iniquities.
53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors
In the first Servant Song we saw that the Servant King will provide freedom, self-respect and justice for all. In the second Servant Song it was revealed that the Servant Prophet will bring comfort to people and have compassion on the afflicted. For the third Song we saw that this Servant Disciple will live a perfect life of discipleship, to show that it is attainable and that a life of total obedience to God and trust in God for all things is possible. Then we saw in the last chapter that there will be a big homecoming for the people of Israel and for all nations. During the previous Servant Songs we say glimpses of the suffering this Servant who is both a King and Prophet will endure. Now in this section, this Servant Song we get the full picture of suffering and why He must suffer. This is how people will on the last day be consummated with God and attention is now back on him as 52:13 states "Behold, my servant". Echoing previous passages of where the Servant is God's. This is, as somebody once wrote, "the jewel in the crown of Isaiah's theology, the focal point of his vision." It is as if we are meant to understand that nothing that has been said before is as important as this passage. Without this passage of Scripture, none of the rest makes sense. Let us discover together why that is so.
The Servant Exalted
The beginning is an adoration of the Servant, as is the song's finale. Sandwiched between them is the description of suffering. This servant acts and speaks with wisdom. How could He be faithful and obedient to God, if He were not wise? Not just any wisdom, but Godly wisdom which flusters and confounds mere human wisdom. This Servant will be raised up! Here Isaiah uses ecstatic language used of God Himself. And what attracts people to this Servant? Certainly not his looks, charisma or appearance for He had no outer beauty that would attract anybody. Verse 14 indicates the level of suffering the Servant will endure. Many are flabbergasted by it! Verse 15 shows the cleansing, the sprinkling indicating a sacrifice. Sprinkling needed to be done with water, oil or blood in order that people could enter into the presence of God. This cleansing, is not for Israel alone, but for all nations and people. He who was considered unclean by many humans (52:14), will be the one to cleanse many other humans from across the world. Then all accusations, and slander against the Servant will cease.
The Servant Despised
The passage now looks at the Servant through the eyes of the nation of Israel, for it is through their words and actions that others will come to know and understand about the Servant. Even though Israel is disobedient and rebellious, there are still some who fear the Lord (50:10). When those people see the full picture of what the Servant has done, then they will go naturally to tell others about it. Whereas before they would simply be witnesses about God, now they would be witnesses about the saving power of God through the Servant's suffering, death and glorification. What of this Servant?
He had grown up like any other boy, just as a plant grows from a root in soil. As time goes on, nothing about Him is special and any promise He showed was decidedly unimpressive. The Servant will be persecuted, despised, rejected, insulted and hideous. So hideously malformed that people could not look at Him. These people considered him an implement of God's deserved torment. That was what the witnesses were thinking.
While God ultimately crushed the Servant, it was not because the Servant deserved it. But rather the witnesses realize that they were the ones who deserved punishment and not the Servant. Just as the animals when offered as sacrifices were substitution offerings in Israel's worship, so too was this Servant a substitutionary sacrifice. A sacrifice that through His body being pierced and his being crushed for sin, the Servant has provided a way for others to be comforted and pardoned. That way being at a cost. A cost of the Servant's own life.
The Servant Suffers Silently
Now a solitary witness speaks out. If this is Isaiah, he was cleansed by God back in chapter 6. but what of his countrymen? How will they be cleansed and how as stray sheep will they be gathered back into relationship with God? The Servant is led to His death, just as a lamb is led to be butchered. This Servant goes quietly and obediently to certain death, through oppression and judgment. His death as an innocent Servant, and buried in the grave with the wicked and guilty. Silent.
The Servant Suprises
Now in verse 10 we have the surprise! Death is not the end of this Servant! Yes God had bruised Him and caused the Servant to suffer. But, the Servant was an offering for sin! That way the Servant will offer righteousness to all the nation. The Servant's mission will be accomplished! God will raise this Servant from the dead and the Servant will be exalted! His sacrifice will surpass any and all previous sacrifices and be the only and final sacrifice needed! Through His death, the Servant will be able to judge righteously and enable those who follow Him to live righteously. Righteously in the sense that His knowledge and wisdom will cause many people to live new lives that are pleasing to God. A righteousness that only comes from people being in relationship with God, instead of being enemies of God.
How is Jesus this Servant?
In Acts 8:26-40, the Ethiopian asked the question of Philip "who does the prophet speak about?" Philip replied that it was about Jesus.
Jesus Christ who grew up as Luke said "increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men." (Luke 2:52). This Jesus who people called the son of a Nazarene carpenter and who people said "Can anything good come from Nazareh?" This Jesus who did not have anything attractive about him, but the way in which He spoke, the wisdom He imparted and the life that He lived. Jesus Christ who was betrayed by one of his closest friends. This Jesus, who was the Lamb of God, who died on a Roman Cross, after a trial where he was falsely accused, tortured and oppressed. This Jesus, who was rejected by even those closest to Him when He died. This Jesus who cried out "My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me? This Jesus who even though without sin, was buried in a grave for the wicked.
This Jesus who rose victoriously from the dead 3 days later, in order to conquer death, sin and the devil. This Jesus, who ascended to the right hand of the throne of God, in the beauty of exaltation and glorification. This Jesus, who alone is the only way that people can one day enter into God's presence when all of history is consummated. This Jesus, the suffering Servant who was a Servant King, Servant Prophet and Servant Disciple. This Jesus, who is the Lord and Saviour of the universe. This Jesus who as fully God and fully human simultaneously, is the only one who could be the full sacrifice demanded of God for the everlasting payment for sin. The Jesus who will judge with righteousness and wisdom, give all people a choice to make - be His disciple and be in a dynamic relationship with God, or go your own way and be astray from God forever.