Today's Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12
New Testament writers leave no doubt as to the identity of the suffering servant: at least ten times they apply Isaiah’s four songs directly to Jesus (for example, Matthew 8:17, Luke 22:37, 1 Peter 2:22- 24). In one instance, Philip corrects an Ethiopian official who wonders if the suffering servant refers to an ancient prophet (Acts8:26-35)
Isaiah 53 reads almost like an eyewitness account of Jesus’ last days on earth. The physical description – the Bible contains no other physical description of Jesus – is shocking. The servant “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him”; he was “like one from whom men hide their faces.” As this chapter foretells, Jesus did not “open his mouth” to answer his accusers at his trial. He left no descendants. He was cut off in the prime of life and, thanks to a gracious friend, was buried in a rich man’s tomb. But that was not the end. After three days he saw “the light of life.”
According to Isaiah, the servant died for a very specific purpose:” He was pierced for our transgressions.” He took on pain for the sake of others, for our sakes. His wounds, an apparent defeat, made possible a great victory. His death sealed a future triumph when all that is wrong on earth will be set right. Significantly, the book of Isaiah does not end with the suffering servant image but goes on to describe that wonderful life in a new heaven and new earth. But the time of travail was a necessary first step, for the savant absorbed in himself the punishment that was due for the evils of the world.
Isaiah 53 forms an underlying foundation for much New Testament theology. In addition, these detailed prophecies, recorded many centuries before Jesus’ birth, offer convincing proof that God is revealing his plan for the ages through the ancient prophets. He has not permanently severed his covenant with the Jews. Rather, out of Jewish roots – King David’s own stock – he will bring forth a new king, a king like no other, to reclaim all the earth.
Who in your life needs to hear about the Messiah, Jesus, prophesied here in Isaiah?