He has no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that was to desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:2-3)
Who esteemed him not? The Jewish people who’s giving this prophecy. Isaiah, a Jew. We esteemed him not. Who were the ones that actually delivered Jesus over? Who were the ones that said “Crucify him. Crucify him. Give us Barabbas.” Well, shall I crucify your king? I find no fault in him. And they say what? We have no king but Caesar. And the antagonists towards the ministry of Jesus are in large parts early Jews. Nothing about Jesus that drew “Oh that’s clearly him” and they despised Jesus. And it was the Jewish people who actually rejected their own Messiah. Not all of them but many of them.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (verse 4). Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. What do you think the Jews before the cross who are mocking Jesus and reviling him, what do you think they thought was happening with Jesus’s death on the cross? He was being punished by God for his own sins. And that’s what the text says 700 years before Jesus comes.
Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Consider how powerful that is. That we have now a man clearly being rejected, we have a man, nothing about him that draws you to him, no form or majesty there. And we have Yahweh laying on a man the sins of us all. Now what a lot of people have tried to do, to make wiggle room for themselves here in terms of Jews rejecting this prophecy. Oftentimes we even, of course, have heard about the fact that many times in synagogue they will not read through Isaiah 53. They skip it in their reading. Why? Because it’s obviously Jesus. But they say “Let’s create an apologetic against Isaiah 53 because this is so clearly Jesus we cannot get out of it”. So let’s say this is actually Israel. This is God speaking about Israel, his people. All right. Let’s stop and think about it for a minute. Is Israel sinless? We could talk about that all day. I think we know a little bit about Israel’s sins and all that took place with Israel and wandering in wildernesses and destruction and exiles and all the rest. Israel is not sinless. What does God have as a display in the temple about sacrifice and atonement and one life for another and substitute? Why does he say? You take something with no spot and no blemish? It is an innocent substitute and sacrifice. They know it this time that for sacrifice to matter, for it to happen, for something to be scapegoat, for something to have sins laid onto it and dragged out of the city away from the people of God, you had to have an innocent-for-guilty sacrifice. And here in Isaiah 53, this Jew, who knows monotheism and temple worship and atonement and sacrifice, says that the Lord lays on him the iniquity of us. All you’ve got – a human substitute now who is sinless? Brothers and sisters, this cannot be Israel. You have what in the atoning sacrifices? You have no spot and no blemish. You can’t have a spotted and blemished sacrifice for another. Israel cannot be underneath this text. Why? Because Israel is sinful and that’s why they need the Messiah.
So again he was oppressed (Isaiah 53:7) and he was afflicted. Yet he opened not his mouth. Like a lamb that has led to the slaughter and like a sheep that is before its shearers is silence. So he opened not his mouth. What do you see in Jesus’ trial as he’s being brought away to be crucified? What do you see? Are you not going to answer for yourself? You’re not going to defend yourself? What? Say something. Jesus, say it. Jesus goes like a lamb to the slaughter. He goes willingly. People have said things like “It says he opened not his mouth and Jesus actually did say a few words in his trial to Pilate and all the rest.” Please read the text. That’s not the point. What’s the point? He’s led like a lamb to the slaughter. He goes willingly. What does Jesus actually saying? I’ve got the power to let you go. “Jesus, say something, defend yourself. All these witnesses, all their witness testimonies not working, all falling apart” and Jesus isn’t helping the witnesses because it’s their duty to prove him guilty and they can’t. And so he keeps his mouth shut and “look, I can let you go.” And Jesus says what? I can have an army of angels at any moment come rescue me, no one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord. This is the Messiah being led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And then the text says “by oppression and judgment he was taken away and asked for his generation. Who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.” Remember the ignorance claim made last evening about the bible does not prophesy the death of the Messiah? The word “cut off” here is a word that describes a violent death. But notice it doesn’t just say the Messiah is going to die a violent death. What does it say? It says that he’s going to die a violent death for what? Stricken for the transgression of my people. It’s not just a death, it’s a death for the sins of God’s people. So here it is again. And they made his grave with the wicked and with the rich man in his death. I think a lot of people have said, in terms of the glory power of this passage, there’s probably a lot here we’re never going to fully tap into. Christians have said “It’s amazing. Jesus died with criminals right? He made his grave with the wicked and with the rich man and his death. He was buried in a rich man’s tomb. I do think that yes, that is true. But I think there’s more. I think there’s more he made his grave with the wicked. I think actually expresses the fact that Jesus was counted as the guilty one. He was counted as the rebel. He was treated as though he were guilty in my place. The wrath of God was poured out on the sinless substitute. In my place, he made his grave with the wicked and was counted, imputed as the guilty one so that I could be credited his righteousness.
I think there’s a complexity and a depth to this that goes beyond merely the fact that Jesus died next to two criminals and was buried in a rich man’s tomb. All that I believe is true but I think it goes much deeper than that. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him. He has put him to grief. It was the will of the Lord to crush him. God was pleased to crush Jesus. Now pause for a second and let’s step aside from how powerful these prophecies are and I want you to consider that it says the Lord was pleased to crush him. I don’t comprehend it. I often want to stop on this text because I think it’s very very important. I don’t comprehend that as broken as I am, as rebellious as I am, as sinful as we all are, as holy as God is, as much as we’ve rebelled and run away from God, Yahweh was pleased to crush his son with whom he has been an intimate perfect fellowship from all eternity. He was pleased to do it. I don’t comprehend it and I’ll leave it at that.
He has put him to grief when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days. What happened before this? He’s cut off out of the land of living. What for? The transgression of God’s people and then what happens? He sees his offspring, he prolongs his days. No, the bible doesn’t prophesy the death and resurrection of the Messiah? He dies for the sins of God’s people and then he sees his offspring, his children, what he accomplished and then he prolongs his days. What does it mean to prolong your days? You get more days. What’s that mean? Well, I was dead and then I got more days. I was dead then I was alive. That is direct prophecy. Now here’s where it gets more interesting. The will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied. How’s he do that if he stays dead? By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous and he shall bear their iniquities. The Messiah bears the iniquities of God’s people. And it says: Therefore I will divide them a portion with the many and he shall divide the spoil with a strong because he poured out his soul to death. I thought that the Bible doesn’t prophesy the death of the Messiah? How many times does God have to say it for us to understand that the Messiah is going to die and rise from the dead?