About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Isaiah 53


The chapter and verse distinctions that we have in our English Bibles are not part of the Canon of Scripture or the original text. These designations were made in the translation process to help us to find certain chapters and verses with more ease.  The predictions of Isaiah 53 actually start in Isaiah 52:13.  For this reason I will begin my commentary on Isaiah 53 from there.


Isaiah 53 is all about the Jewish Messiah who Christians understand to be Jesus, His life, His death, and the results of His death.  The more we understand and appreciate the cross, the more it will affect our lives. 


There is no real disagreement among conservative Christian on verse 13.  The words "my servant will act wisely."  "My servant" refers to Jesus and no one else.  One thing we learn from this verse is that Jesus was in fact the servant of God.  He was sent into the world, not to serve Himself, but to serve His Father.    


Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would either act wisely or prosper, depending on how you translate the Hebrew in this case.  Jesus was definitely wise.  You could see that over and over again with His answers to the trick questions the Jewish leadership tried to stump Him with.  


Did Jesus prosper?  Depending on your definition of the word prosper, He did.  He prospered spiritually, but not materially.  He was not interested in material prosperity for His own life.  That wasnít why He came to earth. 


Verse 13 also says that Jesus will "be raised up and exalted."  Some people feel that this is in reference to the cross where He was physically raised up on the cross.  Was He exalted at that point? Well, not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God He certainly was exalted.  Jesusí obedience to Godís will would have exalted Him to great heights in His Fatherís eyes.  That being said, Jesus' ultimate exaltation was His ascension into Heaven as seen in Acts 2:32-33.      


Verse 14 says that "many were appalled at Him."   Many of those who stood by Jesus as He died on the cross were literally appalled.  They could not believe what they were seeing.  They shook their heads at Him in mockery.  Pilate himself was appalled at Jesus because Jesus refused to defend Himself in order to save His life. 


Isaiah also tells us in verse 14 that Jesusí "appearance is so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness."   This is a specific prophecy of what Jesus actually looked like when He was hanging on the cross.


While on the cross Jesus didnít even look like a human being.  His body was so messed up by the crucifixion that He didnít look like He once did.  2 Corinthians 5:23 tells us that Jesus actually became sin while on the cross.  He didn't just die for our sin but He actually became sin.  There's a big difference between the two.  Becoming sin in such a way made Jesus totally unrecognizable. 


Have you ever wondered why so many people did not recognize Jesus after He rose from the dead?  We know that He had the nail prints in His hands and in His feet, but it is most likely that the rest of His body showed the suffering of the cross as well.  He probably had the stripes from His flogging on His back.  He would have had the scars from the thorns on His head.  His whole body would have shown the torment of all the sin that Jesus became.  This is how horrible the cross of Christ really was.  We really canít imagine the totality of what took place on that cross.


Verse 15 says that Jesus "will sprinkle many nations."  The word "sprinkle" as it is used here is a religious word, as in "sprinkle blood on an altar."   The death of Jesus would provide redemption and salvation for the Jews.  Jesus' blood would be sprinkled for our salvation.  This is an allusion to the Old Testament sacrifices. 


Note the word "nations" in this verse.  What Jesus did on the cross effects nations as well.  This is a prophetic reference to the return of Jesus to earth to rule the nations.    


Isaiah continues and says that "kings will shut their mouths because of Him."  Because of what Jesus did on the cross, He will return to earth and finish the job of salvation and at that point all nations, all kings, all leaders, will have their mouths shut.  They will be speechless before Jesus, the Lord of all there is.  They will have lost all their power and glory and the one in charge will be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Kings will no longer have anything to say about anything.


At this point Isaiah prophecies that the kings will see and understand all about Jesus.  Things they may not have understood will be made clear to them when Jesus returns to rule as the Supreme Ruler of all there is.


We now come to Isaiah 53:1.  The prophet asks, "who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"  The word "Lord" is in reference to God.  The pronoun "our" refers to the Messiah, who we know to be Jesus.  I believe the arm of the Lord refers to the miracles of Jesus.  Very few believed the message of the Old Testament prophets and very few believed the message of Jesus while He was on earth, even though the arm of the Lord was revealed in miraculous power by Jesus.  How many times did the Jewish leadership demand just another miracle? 


Verse 2 tells us that "He grew up as a tender shoot and as a root out of dry ground."  Jesus was a tender shoot.  He was innocent.  He grew up as an ordinary boy in a small town in a Jewish society that was very dry spiritually. 


Jesus was raised in Nazareth of Galilee.  Nazareth was a very uncultured small town.  It was what one might call "a hick town", a town where the boys and men would scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to morality and cultural correctness.  When it comes to a righteous community, Nazareth was a desert.  


Also in verse 2 we see that Jesus had "no beauty" in Him for one to be attracted to.  Jesus didnít look all that handsome.  He looked more homely than anything.  He was not that type of guy that the girls would fall in love over by simply seeing Him.


Isaiah also says that "there was nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him."  Once again, Jesus did not look like a movie star.  He was nothing special when it comes to His looks. If anyone was attracted to Jesus it was because of who He was and what He did, not because of what He looked like. 


We have no real description in the Bible to what Jesus looked like.  This verse is the closest you will read to understand what He looked like.  Thereís one other verse that gives us a clue to what He looked like and that is found in Isaiah 50:6 where we learn that Jesus had a beard.


Verse 3 tells us that Jesus "was a man despised by men, and a man of sorrows."  How many times must Jesus have fallen asleep at night full of sorrow and emotional pain over the fact that His people rejected Him?  He felt sorrow over the fact that His own disciples had a hard time believing Him.  He felt sorrow over the fact that He knew His personal destiny would go to the cross.  Jesus was not always a happy man.


Isaiah also says that Jesus "was familiar with suffering."  Of course we know of the suffering on the cross, but He suffered during His three year ministry as well.  At times He had no place to lay His head to sleep.  He suffered from the abuse of the Jewish leadership.  He suffered the elements of weather as He walked the roads of  Galilee.  He suffered the winds and storms of the seas as He sailed the Sea of Galilee.  He might well have suffered while growing up as a child, acting in ways that may not have been cool to the other children.  I imagine Jesus being ridiculed by the teenage boys in Nazareth because He would not participate in their vulgarities.  Jesus did not have a life of ease.


When the NIV says that Jesus was familiar with suffering and pain, the Hebrew text views this in a broad sense.  The suffering and pain could include physical suffering and pain.  


Also in verse 3 we learn that men hid their faces from Jesus and they did not esteem Him.  After Jesus was arrested, He had one form of mockery after another.  The trial before the Sanhedrin was a joke. They laid aside every rule in their books to condemn Jesus.


Jesusí so-called trial before Pilate was a mockery as well.  Roman rules of law were not followed.  Soldiers mocked Jesus at every step to the cross.  Even while on the cross both Jews and Gentiles made fun of Jesus.  The whole event was one huge mockery.   Jesus was not even esteemed as an ordinary person, let alone being esteemed as the Son of God.


Verse 4 speaks of Jesus carrying our pain and suffering.  Older versions of the NIV use the words "infirmities" and "sorrows."  Pentecostals and Charismatics see sickness in this verse, but there is more to this than sickness.  Sickness might not even mean what this passage speaks of.   The Hebrew text suggests that the sorrow and pain spoken of here are all the painful calamities and sorrows Jesus had to put up with in His life.  You may not think there is any significance with this but there is.  The Evangelical church is divided over whether healing of physical illness was not part of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.  I tend to believe that.  The cross was all about sin; all about Jesus taking the penalty for our sin.     


Even though Jesus bore the sorrow of our sin the Jews of the day thought Jesus was smitten, afflicted, and stricken by God as Isaiah says in the last half of verse 4.  In one sense they were right.  God was the one who smote Jesus on the cross.  God was the one who put Jesus to death, but for different reasons than what the Jews thought.  The Jews thought God was punishing Jesus because He claimed to be God which was blasphemy, but, God killed Jesus because of our sin, not His sin.  Jesus died in our place so we could live for eternity.


Verse 5 clearly states this truth.  Isaiah says that "He was pierced for our transgressions."  Jesus did not go to the cross because of anything He did as the Jews claimed.  He died because of our sin, including the sin of those accusing Him. 


Notice the word "pierced" in verse 5.  This is a direct reference to the time that the soldier pierced Jesusí side with his sword while He hung on the cross.  Hundreds of years before the piercing took place, Isaiah prophesied that it would happen.


Isaiah continues by saying that "He was crushed for our iniquities."  The word "crush" is a good word to use here.  The crushing of Jesus began in the Garden of Gethsemane and ended on the cross.  Jesus was totally crushed, crushed in spirit, soul, and body.  In every aspect He was crushed in order for us to experience life.


Also in verse 5 we see that "the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him."  The simple fact is that Jesus was punished in our place.  The punishment that He took should have been directed our way.  This punishment brought us peace.  The main idea of peace here is that we are no longer enemies of God.  We have peace with Him.  We are on His side.  That is what reconciliation means.  Northing now stands between us and God if we accept His provision for us.  So you might now say that the only possible thing that can stand between a person and God is their unbelief.  Other than that, everything else has been taken care of by Jesus who has made it possible for us to live in a place of peace with God.


This clearly means that if one is in the state of unbelief he does not have this peace and he is still an enemy of God.  The Book of Hebrews makes it very clear that if we reject this act of love, the provision of the cross; there is no other sacrifice that can be made for you.  The only thing left is the wrath of God.


The last phrase in verse 5 says, "by His wounds we are healed." The wounds would be the bloody stripes on His back from the whipping He had.  The nail prints in His hands and feet, along with all the other cuts and bruises Jesus received were inflicted on Jesus in order for Him to bring healing to us. 


Pentecostals and Charismatics see the word "heal" to be in reference to healing of physical illnesses.  The Hebrew word translated into English can man, restore, mend, put back together, or something similar.  I tend to believe that this text is not talking about physical healing.  The context speaks pretty much of sin that Jesus dealt with on the cross.  The context is about sin, not sickness.  Therefore, the healing, or the mending, spoken of here is the healing from sin.   


Isaiah 53:6 is a well known verse that says, "e all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way." Sheep have a tendency to wander.  We wandered from God as the human race and weíve wandered as individuals.  Even after giving our lives to Jesus we have a tendency to wander.  Then the number one sin that Jesus died for is us turning to our own way.  Adam and Even turned from Godís way to their way and each human being has done the same ever since.  Before we can put our trust in Jesus we must turn from our way and turn back to Godís way.  This is repentance.  Repentance always precedes faith, that is why we should never forsake the preaching of repentance.  One cannot really believe unless he repents.


This is why the Lord has laid on Jesus the iniquities of us all.  The Lord in this verse refers to the Lord God.  Thatís God the Father.  While Jesus was on the cross all the sin of all time was put on Jesus, and in fact He became this sin as Paul so clearly says in 2 Corinthians 5:21. 


Verse 7 tells us that Jesus was "oppressed and afflicted yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter Ö but He remained silent, so He did not open His mouth."  We all know the events of Jesus before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate.  The Jews accused Jesus of many things, the greatest of which was blasphemy for claiming to be Godís Son.  Jesus did not respond to any of these accusations but one.  He remained silent even after Pilate asked Him if He was gong to continue not to speak. The only time that Jesus spoke that we know of is when the Sanhedrin and Pilate asked Him directly if He was the King of the Jews, and He had to answer that.  All of the other accusations were not accurate.  This accusation was true and to be silent on this point would be to deny who He was and that He could not do.


Jesus also told Pilate that Pilate had no power other than what God had given him.  This was after Pilate told Jesus that he had the authority to save His life or to end it.  Jesus made it clear that there was only one reason why he had such authority and it had nothing to do with his position of prominence.   God the Father was in charge of every step of Jesusí life, even His arrest and death.


Verse 8 says that "by oppression and judgment He was taken away."  Jesus was tried, judged and condemned and it was through oppression.  Undue physical force was applied to Jesus from the time Judas kissed Him on the cheek in the olive grove.  The oppression of a mock trial at both the Sanhedrin and before Pilate could be classified as oppression. 


"And who can speak of His descendents" Isaiah prophecies.  Who are Jesusí descendents?  They are those who give their lives to Him.  Thatís the true Christian, something that the Jews could not speak of.  They could not and would not believe that Gentiles had any place in the community of faith unless they became Jews, and even at that, they would be second class Jews and second class folk in the community of God. 


Also in verse 8 we note that "He was cut
off from the land of the living for the transgression of many."  "Cut off from the land of the living" simply means Jesus died. 


Why does Isaiah use the word "many", and not "all." in this verse.  Didnít Jesus die for all people?  Yes He did, but not all will receive salvation due to their unbelief, but, "many" will receive salvation because they have given their lives to Jesus.  This is why the word "many" is used.


Verse 9 tells us that "He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death."  Jesus died as a criminal between two criminals.  Jesus was buried with the rich in a rich manís tomb among the elite who were also wicked.  Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who believed in Jesus and a member of the ruling Sanhedrin.  He was the one who took the body of Jesus down from the cross and buried Him in His own tomb.  Thus Jesus was buried with rich people.


The last part of verse 9 says that Jesus had done no violence and deceit could not be found in His mouth.  Though Jesus was not a violent man about 400 soldiers came to arrest Him with swords in the olive grove.  Jesus even commented on this when Judas exposed Him with a kiss. He was amazed that such a number of soldiers were needed to arrest Him, one who had not been violent.  This obviously would exclude the two times He overthrow the money changers tables in the Temple .  This might be seen as violent. I donít believe Jesus carried a weapon of violence. 


The prophecy of verse 10 is extremely important when addressing the question concerning who really killed Jesus.  Did the Jews or the Romans kill Him?  Well they certainly participated in the killing of Jesus, but the one behind it all was God Himself.  God killed Jesus, and Isaiah clearly says so here.  He says, "it was the Lordís will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer."  This makes it very clear.  It was the will of God the Father to kill Jesus.  It was all part of Godís plan for our salvation.  There should be no more questioning on this point once you read this verse.


The next phrase says that "the Lord makes His life a guilt offering."  Thousand and thousand of offerings of animal sacrifices were made throughout the Old Testament by Jews.  The death of Jesus was actually Godís sacrifice.  God Himself made a sacrifice that would end all sacrifices. The cross was the altar that Jesus was sacrificed on.  So, as all those animals were killed and burned in sacrifice by the Jews, so Jesus was killed as the supreme sacrifice.


The next phrase says that "He will see His offspring and prolong His days."  The word "He" refers to God.  The word "His" refers to Jesus.  God will prolong the days of Jesus.  This speaks of the resurrection.  Prolong is an understatement when you think of Jesus being resurrected for eternity. 


God sees Jesusí offspring.  The offspring of Jesus is the true believer.  God saw and knew what the Apostle John was shown in the book of Revelation, and that is, a great multitude of believers.


"And the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand."  The will of the Lord is the will of God, and God's will certainly will prosper in the hands of Jesus throughout eternity.  God's will might not appear to be prospering now, but when it is all said and done, it will prosper. 


The last enemy of God and man is death and it will at some future point be put under Jesusí feet and at that time the will of God will prosper.  It is clear that the cross of Christ has implications for us today and it also has implications for the future.  The cross of Christ has eternal implications.  As a matter of fact, when you see Jesus in the next life, you will see the nail prints in His hands.  He is seen this way in Revelation 5.   


Verse 11 says that "after the suffering of His soulÖ"  Up to this point we have seen Jesusí body suffer in this prophecy but here Isaiah tells us that the soul of Jesus will suffer.  Every aspect of who Jesus was suffered on the cross.  It is our soul that will be placed within a new body at the end of this age. Our soul needed to be saved as well as our body. Jesus suffered in His soul, that most inner part of Him, so our souls could experience salvation.  His soul was rejected by God.  God turned His back on Jesus while on the cross.  Jesusí soul suffered great torment in His fight against satan and sin. 


The next phrase says that "He will see the light and be satisfied."  God will see the light, see the result of the sacrifice of Jesus, and He will be satisfied.  God was pleased to see the end result of the death of Jesus.  This is what the word "justification" is all about. We are justified in the sight of God because God was satisfied with Jesusí sacrifice and He is also satisfied with us once we trust Jesus and His sacrifice.  For the true believer, it is good to know that God is satisfied with us. This does not mean He does not want us to change and become more like Jesus.  It means that our eternal destiny is secure even though we donít totally get changed into Jesus' likeness here on earth.


The last phrase in verse 11 says that "by the knowledge of my righteous servant many will be justified."  Here we see the word "justify" that Iíve mentioned before. When one is justified one becomes no longer guilty.  All mankind stands before God guilty and condemned to eternal punishment.  When we accept God's provision of the cross, this guilt is taken away from us.  We thus stand before God guilt free.  As the saying goes, "justified means that it's just as if I had never sinned." 


The word "many" in this verse tells us that many will be set free from this guilt.  Not all will be justified because not all will embrace salvation.


"And He will bear their iniquities."  Those who accept Godís sacrifice will have their sins carried away by Jesus. 


Verse 12 ends this great chapter of the Bible.  Isaiah says that God will give Him, meaning Jesus, a portion with the great.  Of course Jesus is the greatest of the great.  "And He (Jesus) will divide the spoils with the strong."  When Jesus returns to earth, the redeemed will return with Him.  He at that point will divide the spoils of war.  He will separate the good and bad, the sheep and the goats.  He will deal with satan, wickedness, and death.  He will take what belongs to Him and send the rest into the eternal Lake of Fire .  He will divide the world into section that we will give to us to rule and care for. That what "dividing the spoils" means.  Jesus will be able to do this because as Isaiah says, "He poured His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors."  As earlier stated, Jesus died as a criminal and with two other criminals. 


Jesus poured out His life unto death.  We often see the term poured out in the Bible.  It is a phrase connected to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament.  The blood of the animals was poured out.  Paul Himself felt very strongly that his life in ministry was being poured out for those he served (Philippians 2:16).


The last phrase says that Jesus "bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressions."  Once again we see that Jesus bore the sins of many while on the cross.  Again, He actually bore the sin of all men and women, but for those who refuse to accept this, the bearing of these sins were useless to them. So, although Jesus bore the sins of all mankind, only many sins wore born on the cross because not all embrace the cross.


Another point that this last phrase tells us about the cross is that the whole event was actually one great prayer of intercession on the part of Jesus.  Jesus not only prayed with His heart, soul, mind, and mouth, but He prayed with His body.  His death in one real sense of the word was a prayer of intercession for us.


After really understanding the truth of Isaiah 53 one has no other logical choice to make other than to give himself completely to Jesus.  This chapter, along with Psalm 22, is the only two chapters in the whole Bible that gives us a clear picture of the cross.  Isaiah 53 is more of a prophetic theological treatise, while Psalm 22 shows us more of the emotion and pain that Jesus went through on the cross.  Both chapters should be eternally burned into our minds and souls as a testimony to Godís love for mankind.                                    


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