Isaiah 53 is a prophetic passage. It tells of one who would come and suffer for man. It tells of Jesus; so says Philip (Acts 8:30-35); so says Peter (1 Peter 1:18-20; 2:22-25); so says Paul (Romans 10:16). No on else in all of history seems to fit.
“He shall grow up before Him (the Lord cf. v.1) as a tender plant and as root out of dry ground” (v. 2a).
Jesus was born and grew up in a difficult environment, but not without watchful care. He grew up before the Lord’s eyes. That is, His watchful care. Examples of God’s care include: (a) flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13). (b) ministering angels (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43); providential protection (Luke 4:28-30; John 7:30; 8:29).
“He has no form or comeliness (majesty ESV)… There is no beauty that we should desire Him” (v. 2b).
There was no unusual beauty that caused people to follow Him. There was no halo perpetually around His head to attract people to Him. Homer Hailey remarked “no regal adornments such as the people desire, but only an unimposing peasant carpenter from a small obscure village in Galilee” (Isaiah, p.437). Note: the Hebrew’s word for ‘beauty’ is used of David in 1 Samuel 16:18.
Too many people put style, pizzazz, flare, and flamboyance over substance and content. Jesus could have attracted people with such an appearance, but this is not how He came. The attraction was to be the teaching. Jesus said, “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).
“He is despised and rejected by man, A man of sorrows acquainted (could be rendered ‘knowing’ cf. Isaiah 53:11) with grief” (v. 3).
The next time you begin to feel sorry for yourself, remember Jesus. “Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4). He “was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
“He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (v.7).
Jesus did not resist. He went quietly, not even returning their evil. “When He was reviled, (He) did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
“He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed… the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (v. 4, 5, 6, 10).
His suffering was according to God’s will. God was pleased with this, not a sadistic pleasure, but by what this would accomplish. It is because this was God’s will that, “He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7 cf. Matthew 26:39).
Jesus’ wounds were for man’s sins. “By His knowledge,” God said, “My righteous servant shall justify many” (v. 11). The term “knowledge” connects back to the word “acquainted” (cf. v. 3, which could be rendered “knowing”).
“He was taken from prison and from judgment…He was cut off from the land of the living” (v. 8).
He was taken from prison. “They…led Him away to be crucified” (Matthew 27:31).
He was taken from judgment. Justice was not done. Pilate had thrice declared Jesus innocent (John 18:38; 19:4; 19:6). However, the mob demanded blood. They cried out, “Let Him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:23).
He was cut off from the land of the living. The words “cut off” refer to a violent unnatural death (Exodus 31:14 cf. Numbers 15:32-35; Isaiah 53:8 cf. Daniel 9:26).
Many criminals have been executed. Some of these criminals have suffered horrible deaths. Example: In 1757, Robert-Francois Damiens failed in his attempt to assassinate Louis XV of France. The court resolved to send a message to all would be assassins. A half a dozen expert torturers were gathered. Damiens was made a public spectacle. He was tortured for six hours before a large crowd in Paris (story is told by William F. Buckley Jr. in an article entitled “Bloody Passion” which appeared in National Review, March 09, 2004). However, the death of Jesus was different. He not only suffered, He was innocent. He was willfully suffering for others. William F. Buckley Jr. asked, “What kind of audience could Mel Gibson get for a depiction of the last hours of Robert-Francois Damiens? The film depends… on the victim being Jesus of Nazareth” (ibid).
“We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (v. 4).
The mob misunderstood. They believed that Jesus was being rejected and punished by God. The rulers sneered, “Let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35). The soldiers mocked, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself” (Luke 23:39). One of the criminals blasphemed Him saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). He looked abandoned and totally rejected. He was not. In truth, “He (God) has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried out to Him, He heard” (Psalm 22:24).
“He made His grave with the wicked – But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (v. 9).
A criminal was not ordinarily afforded an honorable burial. “History tells us that as a rule, crucified criminals were left on the cross to be devoured by birds or were thrown into a common grave” (Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, p.208).
Joseph of Arimathea begged Pilate for the body of Jesus. Joseph was a rich man. He provided his own tomb for Jesus (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38).
The reason this was allowed is stated. It was because “He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit on His mouth” (v.9). Jesus’ conduct had an effect on Joseph, on Pilate, or both.
“He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days… He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied” (v. 10, 11).
The prolonging of His days is an implicit reference to the resurrection. Jesus says, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).
The seed no doubt refers to Christians. Through His efforts, many were justified (Isaiah 53:11). He divided the spoil (Isaiah 53:12; cf. Luke 11:21-22).
Modern Jews reject that this passage has to do with Jesus. Instead, they claim that the passage has to do with the nation of Israel collectively, and not to one individual.
Our reply: (1) It is an established fact that ancient Jewish commandments considered Isaiah 53 a reference to the Messiah (2004 Spring Bible Lectures, Judaism, p. 342). (2) This view is not found among the Jews until the 11th century A.D. … “For almost one thousand years after the birth of Yeshua, not one rabbi, not one Talmudic teacher, not one Jewish sage left us an interpretation showing that Isaiah 53 should be interpreted with reference to the nation of Israel.” (Michael L. Brown quoted, 2004 SBL p. 343). (3) The reference seems to be of an individual. Notice: “He” contrasted with “my people” (Isaiah 53:8). The Ethiopian thought the reference to be of an individual (Acts 8:34). (4) The suffering is passively endured. When did the Jewish nation so behave? (5) The nature of the death is vicarious. How could this describe Israel? (6) “One of the clearest admissions Isaiah 53 points to Jesus is the fact that Isaiah 53 has not been read aloud in the Jewish synagogue for centuries! Why do the Jews refuse to read this passage in the synagogue today, especially in view of the fact that the passage was read in the ancient Jewish synagogues? The answer is obvious – you can’t read Isaiah 53 without thinking about Jesus of Nazareth. It has fulfilled this passage in every detail!” (ibid, p. 344).