Isaiah 53


‘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.’ Isaiah 53:1-3

This chapter begins by describing the extreme humiliation of the Messiah. The Messiah is so despised and humiliated that none believe the prophecy of his future, not even the apostles and close disciples at first, Luke 24:1-11 / Luke 24:15-27.

The first verse refers to fleshly Israel and is quoted by Paul, Romans 10:16, to show that few were obedient to the Gospel of Christ, John 1:11 / John 12:38. The ‘arm of the Lord’ means that God strongly intervened in history in order to bring about the fulfilment of this prophecy.

There is nothing about the person of Jesus that attracted the Jews who were looking for an earthly king and kingdom, John 18:36. The Messiah is a ‘shoot’ from the root of Jesse, Isaiah 11:1. He is a ‘shoot’ growing up in dry ground or in unlikely places, John 1:46.

God’s leaders have often come from out of the way and insignificant places. Jesus was the opposite of what the Jews expected.

His appearance to the Jews caused them to despise Him because they used a worldly standard to measure Him, Psalm 22. Many of those to whom He came didn’t accept Him as the Messiah and Son of God, John 1:10-11.

He was well acquainted with the sorrows of the earth, Hebrews 2:18 / Hebrews 4:15. Those who were with Him during His ministry wouldn’t stand with Him during His trials and crucifixion. Nevertheless, God accomplished His work through Him.

‘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.’ Isaiah 53:4-6

Here we read that the former despisers of the Messiah now confess Him. Those who formerly despised the Messiah because of His sufferings, now confess that those sufferings were for a different purpose than they had supposed.

Whereas they had supposed the sufferings to be a just reward of a pretender, they now see the real meaning of the cross, Romans 4:25 / 2 Corinthians 5:16-17.

Those who rejected Jesus accused Him of being from Beelzebul, and so, stricken by God for assuming to be the Son of God, Mark 14:61-64 / Luke 22:37.

All of our burdens, sorrows, and sins are borne by the Messiah. Verse 5 continues the true state of the case as contrasted with their false judgement.

Peter quotes Isaiah in 1 Peter 2:24, He was bruised through crucifixion, but in being bruised, He crushed the head of Satan, Genesis 3:15.

His sinless person died as the perfect sin offering, Hebrews 9:28 / 2 Corinthians 5:21. All the redeemed body confessed with penitence that he whom they so grossly misunderstood was made a sin offering for them, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Notice the text says they ‘have gone astray’, it doesn’t say they were ‘born astray’! The world had wandered off into sin. The cross, therefore, was by grace, for there was no one who was righteous, and so, deserving of the forgiveness of God, Romans 3:9-10 / Romans 3:23.

He seeks to do only that which is right in his own eyes. The full weight of sin which belonged to the whole mass of mankind rested upon Jesus. He suffered on behalf of the wicked, Mark 10:45. Jesus came specifically into the world to be the sacrificial Lamb of God.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Note here that the prophecy states that Jehovah laid the sins of all men upon Jesus. This corresponds with Paul’s statement that ‘God set forth his Son to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood’, Romans 3:25. Thus the initiative lay with God in the sufferings of Jesus upon the Cross.’

1. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God was not the only one, however, who had a part in Jesus’ sacrifice upon the Cross.

2. Satan did indeed bruise the heel of the Seed of Woman.

3. Christ Himself engineered His death upon Calvary, Luke 9:31.

4. The Jews crucified Him.

5. The Romans crucified Him.

6. The human race crucified Him.

7. Every man crucified Him.

‘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.’ Isaiah 53:7-9

Here we read of the prophecy of the suffering, death, and burial of Jesus.

He humbled Himself to be mistreated by those whom He had created, Colossians 1:16 / Philippians 2:5-8. He was harshly treated and mishandled, yet He opened not his mouth. Peter holds this forth as our perfect example, 1 Peter 2:21-24.

In the ill-treatment He received, He offered no retaliation but accepted it in humble obedience, John 10:17-18 / Matthew 26:63 / Hebrews 5:8-9.

Isaiah now speaks of the closing portion of the life of Jesus. It was by a judicial crime that our Lord was condemned. The judgement of Pilate declared Christ to be innocent, but this judgement was taken away.

He had done nothing by which He deserved the treatment He received. He was the sacrificial lamb of God, John 1:36 / Revelation 5:12. He was literally snatched from the land of the living for the transgression of His people, Galatians 3:13-14.

In having seen the patience with which He suffered and the manner of His death, there is now offered a brief glance at his burial. The antithesis is in what the Jews would have done in His burial and in what was actually done by Joseph of Arimathea.

‘Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge6  my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.’ Isaiah 53:10-12

Here we read that God extended the life of the Messiah, Revelation 1:18. God allowed Christ to suffer in our place. He became an offering for our sin. When He was made an offering, His life was thus extended, Hebrews 9:14 / Hebrews 10:5-7.

We also read of the blessings given the Messiah for His self-sacrifice. The suffering of Christ was not in vain. The work of salvation as accomplished by Christ is the great object of His calling and continues victoriously through His mediation.

He now reaps the fruit of his self-sacrifice in a continuous priestly course, Hebrews 1:3 / Hebrews 8:1 / 1 John 2:1. The last reward of His offering self for sin, for the sin of man, is His full dominion over His kingdom, Matthew 28:18 / Acts 2:36 / Hebrews 1:4-8.

This promise stands between the humiliation and His exaltation. Jesus receives it because of His sacrifice, but people rally around Him because He was exalted above every name, Philippians 2:9-11.

Jesus was worthy to receive the blessing of the church because He gave Himself for all those who have obeyed His death, burial and resurrection, Romans 6:3-6.

Jesus was worthy to receive glory, honour and power because He was crucified for transgressors, Luke 23:34 / Revelation 4:11.

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