Posted by: Brad Beaman | July 14, 2012

Suffering Servant

This passage of scripture has been called the John 3:16 of the Old Testament. The chapter is used for evangelism because the suffering servant is obviously Jesus Christ. In Acts chapter 8 we read that Phillip used this chapter to lead the Ethiopian Eunuch to Christ.

Phillip asked him if he understood this chapter he was reading. Then the Ethiopian Eunuch asked Phillip is the prophet Isaiah talking about himself or someone else?   Phillip began with this passage to explain Jesus to him.

This Chapter is not only referred to in the book of Acts but also is found in all four Gospels.  It is also referred to in Romans, Hebrews and 1 Peter. Except for one verse the entire chapter is quoted in the New Testament.

The suffering servant is a unique concept. The idea that someone would willingly suffer without guilt to pay for the sins of others was unheard of when Isaiah wrote this. The very one who was passed over by man would be the one to deliver man from sin is revolutionary.

The whole idea of substitute used in this context is amazing. Sure we have substitute teachers in school. Baseball uses substitute batters (pinch hitters). At lunch we can substitute a vegetable with a salad. But this is kind of substitute of one dying for another is unique.  

  Isaiah 53:1-9

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

The suffering servant is so unexpected and so unbelievable. Who has believed our message, the question is asked in verse 1. The answer is no one. The servant has such an unlikely beginning that it was unbelievable.  

This servant lacked all the external trappings you would expect. The people of Israel were expecting royalty to be their liberator. But this servant had an unusual beginning as a tender shoot and a root coming up from dry ground.   

 It all points to the humble beginnings of Jesus. There was no room at the inn. He was born in a stable. He was raised in the disrespected city of Nazareth. There was an expression, can anything good come out of Nazareth.

This is not a King Saul who stood head and shoulders above the people and turned out to be a miserable King. This servant was the unlikely one to be chosen.

Instead of being received gladly the servant was despised. Rather than honor him he was rejected.

In verse 3 we have some of the horrible account of Jesus’ crucifixion.  People would see this horrible suffering but they could not bear to look upon it. To see the Son of God dispised, rejected, suffering and forsaken.   

The iniquity of us all was laid upon Jesus. His suffering was foremost an inner pain which provided the atonement for sin.  

What would be the fruit of all the labor of Jesus? It was dreadful suffering and a grim death. Phillip Bliss wrote this chapter into a Hymn

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

He is a sacrifice for all the people. Verse 4 talks about the early death. What did the people think? He must have done something evil to upset God and suffer this way.  How wrong!

Jesus suffered for our sins, not his. He took up our infirmities. He carried our sorrows.

He was pierced for our iniquities. He died to bring us peace with God. By his wounds we were healed.

The most intense sufferings ever know was experienced by this servant. Why? It was because of our rebelliousness and moral crookedness. We all like sheep have gone astray. God took our sin and laid it on the sinless perfect suffering servant. He laid our sins on Jesus.

Man despised him. It is unbelievable. It is unthinkable.  

How horrible it was for Jesus to die. This might be well known to us. We might be used to it now. He died the  just for the unjust to bring us to God. But in Isaiah’s day there was no known concept of such an atrocity. God took our guilt and laid it on the suffering servant.

Vicarious means taking the place of another. It was a vicarious death. It should have been us on that cross but it was the innocent sinless one who was there to die voluntarily.

Jesus was like a sheep led to the slaughter. He suffered without protest. He was oppressed and mistreated. Jesus should have complained. This pleased the Lord. God’s purpose was fulfilled in Jesus death on the cross. The Lamb of God was crucified for us voluntarily.

The illegal and unfair trail of Jesus resulted in his death on the cross. All of this was God’s divine plan to conquer sin. Vindication comes not until after his death the resurrection.  

All of this is unbelievable? Yes

His Salvation is available to you? Emphatically yes!

 Like the Philippian jailer we should ask, What must I do to be saved?  The answer is Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved Acts 16:31.


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