Our main text is Isaiah 53. Verse 4-5 are key prophecies; (Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… and by His stripes we are healed.) More on these in a minute.
Matthew 8:16-17 is one of many Scriptures confirming Jesus as Messiah.
16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”
We tend to forget how many Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled and how miraculous this is in itself. For a quick refresher, here are some of them:
- The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of a virgin; He will be called Immanuel and live in Nazareth (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:23).
- He will be a prophet like Moses, enter Jerusalem triumphantly, riding on a donkey (Deuteronomy 18:15; Zechariah 9:9; John 12:12-19).
- He will be rejected by His own people and betrayed by one of His followers for thirty pieces of silver (Isaiah 53:1-3; John 1:11; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-16).
- The Messiah will be mocked, taunted, spit upon, severely beaten, and flogged (Psalm 22:7-8; Isaiah 50:6; 53:5).
- He will be tried and condemned to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:14-16; John 19:15-16).
- His hands and side will be pierced; His garments will be divided by casting lots, but His bones will not be broken (Zechariah 12:10a; Psalm 22:16-18; 34:20; John 19:36).
- The Messiah will bear the sins of many and pray for those who kill Him (Isaiah 53:12b).
- He will suffer with sinners, die with criminals, and He will be buried with/by a rich man (Isaiah 53:12a; Matthew 27:38, 57-60).
- The Messiah will be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10; 30:3; 1 Corinthians 15:4-8).
- He will make His enemies a footstool for His feet; He will be exalted and will sit at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 12:2; Acts 2:32-36; Hebrews 10:12-13).
But before the exaltation, Jesus had to endure the humiliation. After that last supper, Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane knowing what was ahead of Him. And yet, He had one last meal with His closest friends, sang a few Psalms, and led the disciples out on that historic night.
Hebrews 12:2 encourages believers to look to Jesus:
“…the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Just a little longer on earth and the glory He had with the Father before time began (John 17:5) would be His once again. If He would just endure the anguish of his soul and horrors of the cross, He would soon be resurrected, glorified, and highly exalted.
Jesus wore a crown of thorns that we might wear a crown of life. It was in that Garden, praying, that His matchless obedience won the victory. He went through with it for our sake.
“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me’” (Matthew 26:38).
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:42-44)
This is a legitimate medical condition. A person can die from the weight of such heavy sorrow. The magnitude of Jesus’ grief apparently caused the blood capillaries under His skin to burst from the extreme emotional pressures He endured, and blood escaped through His pores. It was an outward result of what our Lord felt as He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21).
In a matter of minutes, in the quiet of the night, just after praying for God’s will to be done, a mob would arrive in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Led by the chief priests and carrying torches, they sought the Light of the World. A detachment of soldiers carrying weapons came to arrest the Prince of Peace.
Jesus passed the test that night, but His disciples did not. They were weary, confused, unprepared, and they fled, leaving Jesus alone. As believers, we will face times of severe testing and trial; times when only direct communion with God will give us the strength to prevail. Jesus became a High Priest who can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).
In Isaiah’s gospel, ch. 52-53, The Servant of the LORD brings salvation to many!
This prophecy about Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was written over 600 years before He came to this earth, and is a detailed and accurate prediction of the brutal suffering and death the Messiah would undergo.
Isaiah writes about the humiliation and exaltation of the Servant of the LORD, like the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-11.
For context, this messianic prophecy starts here with the last three verses in Isaiah 52. Jews tend to avoid these passages today because they clearly point to Jesus Christ. But historically, the ancient Jews understood it of the Messiah.
13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. 14 Just as many were astonished at you; So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men; 15 So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider. Isaiah 52:13-15
Vs. 13 – The NKJ rightly capitalizes My Servant because the context indicates this is a clear reference to Jesus Christ. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-5, declaring it to be a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus.
Take a look. Matthew 12:16-21 states:
He [Jesus] warned them not to make Him known, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 18 “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; 21 And in His name Gentiles will trust.”
Back to ISAIAH 52:13b – He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high: The first words of the LORD in this section regarding His suffering Servant declare His victory. The point is clear: the Messiah will triumph.
Before His suffering is announced, His glorious victory is assured.
14 – many were astonished, His visage was marred more than any man: This speaks of the cruel and vicious beating Jesus endured at the hands of his enemies. Jesus was beaten so badly, bloody and swollen on His face and body that He hardly looked like a man. The result was so shocking people were astonished when they saw Jesus.
15 – So shall He sprinkle many nations: Sprinkling is often associated with cleansing from sin in the Old Testament; but the Messiah and His saving, atoning work extends beyond Israel to many people and nations.
15b – Kings will shut their mouths… When they spoke against Him before, it was in blindness, but now what had not been told them they shall see.
Nowhere in the Old Testament is it so plainly and fully prophesied that Christ ought to suffer and then enter into His glory, than in this prophecy.
Isaiah 53 contains incontrovertible proof that God is the author of Scripture and Jesus is the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. These details are so specific, no human could have predicted them by accident and no imposter could have fulfilled a fraction of them by scheming.
Another New Testament confirmation is in Acts, chapter 8, where an angel of the Lord tells Philip to take a certain road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He comes across a man from Ethiopia who happens to be reading – Isaiah 53.
Look at Acts 8:27-37
27…a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in Scripture which he read was this:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”
So the eunuch answered Philip, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
In modern times, few discern or acknowledge Jesus because the road is narrow. The Jews in those days had formed wrong ideas about how the Messiah would arrive on the scene, thinking it would be in pomp, power, and glory.
Now in ISAIAH 53:
Vs. 1 – To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed: the strength, power, and might of God will be expressed in the suffering Servant;
- Isaiah 52:10 says, “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the sight of the nations that all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”
Isaiah 53:2 – As a root out of dry ground: Jesus grew up in Galilee… [“Nazareth?!”] God can bring the most wonderful things out of humble beginnings and dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness… no beauty that we should desire Him: Jesus was not a man of remarkable beauty or physical attractiveness. God did not use good looks to His advantage.
Author and evangelist, Alan Redpath put it this way:
“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.”
Vs. 3 …a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: He knew sorrow and grief so intimately that He could be called a Man of sorrows. And His sorrow was for others.
And we hid our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him: This again shows that men value physical beauty and charisma far more than God does, and when we don’t see beyond it, we can reject the ones God accepts or sends!
Vs 4 – Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted: Mankind saw the suffering Jesus – but didn’t understand the reasons why.
Isaiah now explains why – it was for us!
Vs. 5 – He was wounded for our transgressions… for our iniquities. It was in our place that the Messiah suffered. (Wounded is literally “pierced through.”)
…And by His stripes we are healed: Here, the prophet sees through the centuries to know that the Messiah would be beaten with many stripes; Isaiah announces that provision for healing is found in the suffering of Jesus, so by His stripes we were healed.
*Past, present & future healing! (Insert “saved,” or “delivered.”) As in 2 Corinthians 1:10,
“…who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us;”
God’s ultimate healing for us is called “glorification” or our bodily resurrection.
Vs. 6 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way: Sheep are stupid, headstrong animals. We have turned – against God’s way, every one;
6b – And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all: Here we see the partnership between the Father and the Son in the work on the cross.
Next, verses 7-9 deal with the suffering and death of the Servant of the LORD.
Vs. 7 – He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter… Isiah’s point is that Jesus chose to be silent, but He was not helpless.
John 10:18 reveals again that Jesus purposely laid down His life:
No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again…
And in John 19:30, after Jesus said “It is finished,” He bowed His head and He gave up His spirit.
Isaiah 53:8,”For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken,” –
- Some argue Isaiah 53 is about Israel who suffered through the centuries.
- The fact the Suffering Servant would die demonstrates this prophecy cannot be about Israel; she has never been “cut off from the land of the living.” She was dispersed, yes; dead, no.
Vs. 9 – And they made His grave with the wicked: Jesus died in the company of the wicked
But with the rich at His death; buried in the tomb of the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea.
…because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth; Jesus had the power to retaliate, but did not. And despite all the pain and humiliation, the Messiah did not sin by word or in His actions.
In verses 10-11, we get a glimpse of victory, but look closely at what it says. The suffering was ordained by God:
10 – Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief: this was God’s plan, prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before it happened. This was God’s victory, not Satan’s – or man’s triumph (meaning the Jews or Romans).
Even as Jesus was punished as if He were a sinner, He was performing the most holy service ever offered to God. Offering Himself as the final sacrifice [once for all] for sin, He accomplished the work of reconciling the world to Himself.
The idea of a substitutionary atonement for sin cannot be more specifically stated!
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand: He lives on! He lives to see His seed, His spiritual descendants.
Vs. 11 – He shall be see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied: The Messiah will look upon His work and in the end, He shall be satisfied. No regrets. Every bit of the suffering and agony was worth it, and brought about a satisfactory result.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities: In understanding who the Messiah is and what He accomplished, we are justified, declared righteous before God.
Jesus is now our Advocate before the Judge. Now, when the sinner is brought to the courtroom bench, Jesus stands in to answer the accusations. He points to His head, His side, His hands, His feet, He pleads His blood, and pleads so triumphantly that the Judge proclaims, “Let them go, deliver them from the pit, for Jesus has provided a ransom.”
Finally, we wrap up Isaiah 53.
Verse 12 – Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; with the image of dividing the spoil after a victorious battle, we see the Messiah ultimately triumphs. He divides the spoil with those who are strong in Him.
In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul described this ultimate triumph that followed His humiliation: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” What a reward!
If there had been no sinners, there could not have been a Savior.
53:12 – He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors. This speaks of the totality of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Being poured out means that it was all gone. There was nothing left;
Our Lord Jesus was numbered with sinners; Who can be afraid of one whose name appears on the same list with us? All our condition of unrighteousness and sin Jesus has taken; and all that Jesus has comes to us. Immediate justification by faith.
Psalm 22 is another messianic prophecy which describes crucifixion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. Psalm 22:14
Pastor Allistair Begg commented on this, saying:
“Did earth or heaven ever witness a sadder spectacle than this? In soul and body, our Lord felt Himself to be weak as water poured upon the ground. The placing of the cross in its socket had shaken Him with great violence, had strained all the ligaments, pained every nerve, and more or less dislocated all His bones. Burdened by His own weight, the impressive sufferer felt the strain increasing every moment of those six long hours.
Sensations that our Lord endured, we could not have faced, and unconsciousness would have had to come to our rescue. But He drained the cup and tasted every drop. As we kneel before our ascended Savior’s throne, let us carefully remember the way by which He prepared it as a throne of grace for us; let us in spirit drink of His cup, that we may be strengthened for our hour of heaviness whenever it may come.”
Back to Isaiah 53:12 for the final points:
He was numbered with the transgressors: We would be shocked if a godly woman looked at a list of prostitutes and said, “Put my name down among them.” Or what if a godly man looked at a list of murderers and said, “Number me among them.” But that is what Jesus did for us, only to a much greater degree.
He bore the sin of many: Over and over again, the prophet emphasizes the fact the Servant of the LORD, the Messiah, suffers on behalf of and in the place of guilty sinners.
And made intercession for the transgressors: Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him, and He now has a ministry of intercession. (Heb. 7:25 – this intercession is for the saints)
As we close, Hebrews 9:27-28 reminds us:
“…And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation…”
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:19-23