The Suffering Servant
“This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the end for which he was to die, and the advantages resulting to mankind from that illustrious event . . . This chapter contains a beautiful summary of the most peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of Christianity.” (Adam Clarke)
In this prophecy from Isaiah, we see his anticipation that the Messiah of the Jewish people, the one who would be marred beyond recognition is the very one who came to save His people and the nations of the earth. While those who tortured Him on His day of crucifixion saw Him as weak and suffering this was the power of God’s love in its mightiest display.
As Jesus grew up He did increase in wisdom and stature before God and man. (Luke 2:52) Yet, He was a tender plant, considered weak and insignificant and not mighty and strong as the tree. A tender plant is weak and vulnerable and may seem useless before the Lord. But in the presence of God, and submitting to His use, what appears to be weak is strong. It does not matter if the plant is in the dry ground as God will sustain it by His presence.
Jesus did grow up on the dry ground of the Roman-occupied region of Galilee. Galilee in respect to political and spiritual standards for the Israelite nation it was dry ground. But the Lord God Almighty can bring the most beautiful things from the dry ground. “Do not say, ‘It is useless to preach down there, or to send missionaries to that uncivilized country.’ How do you know? Is it the very dry ground? Ah, well, that is hopeful soil; Christ is a ‘root out of a dry ground,’ and the more there is to discourage the more you should be encouraged. Read it the other way. Is it dark? Then all is fair for a grand show of light; the light will never seem as bright as when the night is very, very dark.” (Spurgeon)
Through Isaiah’s prophecy, we see a greater description of Jesus than we have anywhere in the Gospels. Jesus was not one of attractive beauty or physical stature. In no way does this mean that Jesus was an ugly person but that He did not have the advantage of “good looks.” We should not paint images of handsome models to be used to attract people to our Lord. Such a method would be contrary to His nature. “These days it appears that we must dress up the gospel to make it attractive. We have to use the methods of technique which must be smart, well-presented, streamlined. There must be something about the presentation of the gospel that will appeal to people . . . to what is called ‘the modern mind.’ I wonder if we stop to think that in our efforts to make the gospel message ‘attractive’ we are drawing a curtain across the face of Jesus in His humiliation? The only one who can make Him attractive is the Holy Spirit.” (Redpath)
Jesus would not have been considered the life of the party in His day. But we are not to think of Him as a sad or morose person. Jesus was a person who displayed great joy. “At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Luke 10:21) But Jesus was well acquainted with sorrow and grief and earned the title of “A Man of sorrows.” This along with other reasons made Him a man despised and rejected by men.
Most of our sorrow is self-pity. We have a love of feeling sorrow for ourselves. The sorrows of Jesus was not for Himself but for others, for the fallen desperate condition of humanity. “He was also ‘a man of sorrows,’ for the variety of his woes; he was a man not of sorrow only, but of ‘sorrows.’ All the sufferings of the body and of the soul were known to him; the sorrows of the man who actively struggles to obey; the sorrows of the man who sits still, and passively endures. The sorrows of the lofty he knew, for he was the King of Israel; the sorrows of the poor he knew, for he ‘had not where to lay his head.’ Sorrows relative, and sorrows personal; sorrows mental, and sorrows spiritual; sorrows of all kinds and degrees assailed him. Affliction emptied his quiver upon him, making his heart the target for all conceivable woes.” (Spurgeon)
Because of Jesus’ lack of outward attractiveness, the reaction of mankind was to withdraw from Him. Many a man places a greater value on the physical attractiveness of a person than in the inner beauty of a person. If we do not see a physical beauty we reject that person and never learn the inner beauty. This is where God searches, the mind and heart of a person. This is why men are sometimes amazed by the ones that God chooses.
We often look at the physical sufferings of our Lord, but He Also took our mental pain upon Himself. Our griefs and sorrows became His grief and sorrow. It is the image that Jesus loaded them upon His back and carried them so that we would not have to. How many of us today carry our grief and sorrow that Jesus is carrying for us? It does us no good if we do not release them to Him and let Him carry them for us.
Certainly, it is true that the Son of God, God Himself was stricken and afflicted by the sins that we have committed. He has taken the brunt of the penalty for us and yet we live as if He had not. For many, they saw the sufferings of Jesus but never learned the reason why.
Jesus was stricken and afflicted, even smitten by God the Father and here we learn why. It was for us, He has taken our transgression, our iniquities. In our place, the Messiah suffered.
Isaiah has the vision that many centuries later the Messiah would be beaten and receive many stripes. (Mark 15:15) Isaiah states further that His stripes were for the provision of our healing. By the suffering of Jesus, we can be healed. There has been much debate as to if the healing is physical or spiritual. In the Gospel of Mathew, the healing is physical. “When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17) While in 1 Peter it is spiritual. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25) We can clearly see that the suffering of Jesus was for both our Physical and spiritual healing.
Christians should pray boldly and trust in God’s mercy and goodness for healing now. If it is His will it shall be done for His glory. But His promise of healing will be ultimately fulfilled at the resurrection. “‘With his stripes, we are healed.’ Will you notice that fact? The healing of a sinner does not lie in himself, nor in what he is, nor in what he feels, nor in what he does, nor in what he vows, nor in what he promises. It is not in himself at all; but there, at Jerusalem, where the pavement is stained with the blood of the Son of God, and there, at Golgotha, where the place of a skull beholds the agonies of Christ. It is in his stripes that the healing lies. I beseech thee, do not scourge thyself: ‘With his stripes, we are healed.’“ (Spurgeon)
Isaiah describes to us the need for the atoning work of the Messiah. Man is like sheep, like stupid headstrong animals that have gone astray. Few of us walk in God’s way and the many of us turn to our own way. A man has the ability to rationalize and will rationalize his actions to justify his way of sinning. So we walk not in God’s way but our own way and every way that is not God’s way is a sinful destructive way.
We can see a partnership between the Father and the Son in His work on the cross. The Son was wounded for our transgressions and the Father laid upon Him the iniquity of all. The Father judged the iniquity and the penalty was laid upon the Son.
Despite all the pain and suffering of the Messiah He never opened His mouth to complain or defend Himself. Before those who accused Him, He was silent. (Mark 15:2-5) His only words were to glorify God. The Prophet Isaiah repeats that the Messiah remained silent through His suffering. We should not think that Jesus was a helpless victim of His circumstances as a helpless lamb. This was not so, He was in control through the whole process. (John 20:18; John 19:11; John 19:30) “If I were to die for any one of you, what would it amount to but that I paid the debt of nature a little sooner than I must ultimately have paid it? For we must all die, sooner or later. But the Christ needed not to die at all, so far as he himself was personally concerned. There was no cause within himself why he should go to the cross to lay down his life. He yielded himself up, a willing sacrifice for our sins.” (Spurgeon)
The Messiah was not only taken from prison and judgment but there was none to claim His generation. The Messiah was childless and there was no descendant to declare what had happened.
The Prophet Isaiah gives us the first indication that the Messiah would die by stating that He would be cut off from the land of the living. “The phrase ‘cut off’ strongly suggests not only a violent, premature death but also the just judgment of God, not simply the oppressive judgment of men.” (Grogan)
On the cross, Jesus died in the company of the wicked by being crucified between two criminals. “Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.” (Luke 23:32) The intention of those who crucified Him was to place Him in a common grave with the wicked. Their intentions were for naught as God allowed Jesus to be buried in the grave of the rich. Jesus was take to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and placed there. (Luke 23:50-56; Matthew 27:57-60) The Messiah was a man of no violence and there was no deceit in His speech. He died for the transgression of God’s people and yet He was sinless.
Isaiah properly states that the suffering of the Servant of the Lord was ordained by the Lord and it pleased Him. This was the will of God. Jesus was not a victim of circumstance or at the mercy of a political power. It was planned and ordained by God Himself and prophesied by the Prophet of the Lord Isaiah hundreds of years before it happened. This is the victory of God and not that of man nor Satan.
As the Apostle Paul preached that God was in Christ reconciling man unto Him through Jesus. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) Though Jesus was treated as a sinner and deserving the death of a sinner He was performing a holiest service to God the Father ever offered. This the reason Isaiah could say that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. It pleases God that through Jesus the world could be reconciled to God the Father.
The Scriptures speak of sacrificial sin offering in the book of Leviticus chapter 5. Here Isaiah states the idea of a substitutional atonement for sin. This was the dreading that Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane becoming the sin sacrifice. “My Lord suffered as you suffer, only more keenly; for he had never injured his body or soul by an act of excess, so as to take off the edge from his sensitiveness. His was the pouring out of a whole soul in all the phases of suffering into which perfect souls can pass. He felt the horror of sin as we who have sinned could not feel it, and the sight of evil afflicted him much more than it does the purest among us.” (Spurgeon)
The death of the Messiah is not the end of the story. He lives on! He lives to see the fruit of His suffering and His spiritual descendants. His days shall be prolonged and He shall live not under the curse of death. His shall be a glorious life of prosperity in the pleasure of the Lord God Almighty. The Messiah will look upon the work He has done and He shall be satisfied. He will feel the satisfaction and know the worth of His suffering. It is the knowledge of the Messiah, who He is and what He has done, that will justify us before God.
The work of the Messiah will be rewarded. Isaiah provides the image of dividing the spoil after a victorious battle, the ultimate triumph of the Messiah. As the Apostle Paul describes the triumph. “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11) “It is a strange fact that I am going to declare, but it is not less true than strange: according to our text the extraordinary glories of Christ, as Savior, have all been earned by his connection with human sin. He has gotten his most illustrious splendor, his brightest jewels, his most divine crowns, out of coming into contact with this poor fallen race.” (Spurgeon) “I do see that out of this dunghill of sin Christ has brought this diamond of his glory by our salvation. If there had been no sinners, there could not have been a Savior. If no sin, no pouring out of the soul unto death; and if no pouring out of the soul unto death, no dividing a portion with the great. If there had been no guilt, there had been no act of expiration. In the wondrous act of expiation by our great Substitute, the Godhead is more gloriously revealed than in all the creations and providences of the divine power and wisdom.” (Spurgeon)
The Messiah will divide the spoil with those who were strong in Him. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)
Jesus poured all that He had on the Cross. “‘He hath poured out his soul unto death.’ I will say no more about it, except that you see how complete it was. Jesus gave poor sinners everything. His every faculty was laid out for them. To his last rag, he was stripped upon the cross. No part of his body or of his soul was kept back from being made a sacrifice. The last drop, as I said before, was poured out till the cup was drained. He made no reserve: he kept not back even his innermost self: ‘He hath poured out his soul unto death.’“ (Spurgeon)
Jesus could never become a sinner, yet, He willingly and lovingly was numbered with the transgressors. Jesus placed His name beside ours for the sins we have committed. The Prophet Isaiah emphasized that point that the Servant of the Lord suffered on behalf and in place of the guilty sinners. He interceded for us the transgressors. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)