Isaiah 53

This chapter is one of the greatest prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Seven centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Isaiah was inspired by God to write about what He would be like and why He would come. The prophet had already predicted the virgin birth of Jesus (7:14) and His glorious rule as the Prince of Peace who would reign forever on the throne of David (9:6-7). But here Isaiah describes the Messiah in quite different terms.

The saving King of Israel (and every nation) was not going to look like royalty, at least not in human terms. In fact, He would make His entrance as a very ordinary-looking man with “no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him” (v.2). Messiah would not burst onto the scene as a conqueror like Alexander the Great, but more like one who was conquered: despised, rejected, and familiar with pain and suffering (v.3). When you read the Gospels you find that the leaders of the Jews completely miscalculated Jesus when He came. They missed Him. They expected their Messiah to be an ambitious, self-promoting political leader with off-the-charts approval ratings. But He came as a humble servant, meeting the needs of the poor, healing the nobodies, and loving the marginalized.

Verses 4-12 focus on the role of the Messiah as the sin-bearing substitute who suffers for sinners. As believers we cannot read this passage without thinking of the cross and the passion of the Christ. It took the suffering and death of the Son of God to cover our guilt as sinners: He had to be wounded, crushed, punished, and beaten to heal us from the effects of our sin (v.5). In order to remove our sin and make us righteous (v.11), God the Father had to lay our sins on His Son (v.6).

And Jesus took responsibility for our sins willingly; He did not resist. Though He was innocent, He surrendered to His Father’s will to be punished as if He were guilty. Like an innocent lamb carried to the altar of sacrifice, trusting and silent, Jesus did not protest when He was flogged, mocked, and nailed to the cross (v.7). He died as a criminal, crucified between two thieves, and buried in the tomb of a rich man (v.9), Joseph of Arimathea (see Matthew 27:57-60).

Stop now and pray, thanking Jesus for fulfilling this prophecy and for “pouring out His soul to death” (v.12). Praise the Suffering Servant, your Messiah, for carrying your sins to the cross. Hallelujah!

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