In Isaiah 53 of his prophecy, Isaiah writes about the humiliation, the suffering and the death of Jesus Christ — and also informs us that He was not disappointed or defeated but was satisfied because He accomplished the work He came to do. The prophet gives us a vivid picture of what would transpire when the Savior came.
What an amazing event! God was coming to earth. The very One by whom the world was made would walk on the earth He had created. The perfect God-man would perform great miracles, deliver powerful messages, and reach out in mercy to fallen sinners.
What a blessing to hear the perfect teacher present a perfect lesson! What a privilege to see the Son of God heal the sick and raise the dead! Yet the majority of those who claimed to believe the message of the Old Testament prophets had a distorted view of what they wrote. So although there were times that great crowds followed Him, ultimately the prophecy was fulfilled and Jesus was “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3).
While many were happy to feed on the loaves and fishes and were willing to follow Him when they thought He would set up an earthly kingdom and deliver them from their oppressors, when He spoke about God’s sovereignty in Nazareth they tried to kill Him. When He declared that He was the bread come down from heaven, many who had walked with Him for a while turned back and walked with Him no more.
But His death was not a tragedy; it was a death to which He willingly submitted. Several times they had tried to take Him but could not, because His hour had not yet come. Peter described it this way in his message on the day of Pentecost, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
Here is divine sovereignty and human accountability. Jesus came to this earth to go to the cross. He went at God’s appointed time to accomplish the work which was given Him to do; but those who crucified Him did so out of a wicked heart and were fully responsible for their actions.
Isaiah declared, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). His death was not in vain.
He bore the heavy burden of sin being put upon Him but since the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6), the sin-debt owed by His people is fully paid.
The fact of man’s depravity is addressed here: “All we like sheep had gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Because of our fallen nature we walk in our own way, not God’s way. That means we are in rebellion against God, refusing to walk in the way He has marked out for us.
There are those who see no need of a Savior because they are blind to their ruined condition as a transgressor of God’s law. They feel because they are a respectable citizen and a good neighbor all is well. They fail to see that turning to their own way rather than God’s way means they are at enmity against God.
He was cut off out of the land of the living because He died to save His people from their sins.
But we read that “it pleased the Lord to bruise him” (Isaiah 53:10). One might ask how that could be. How could the Father be pleased to bruise Him and see Him suffer so under the burden of sin that was put upon Him?
The answer is provided: “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.”
Jesus Himself said, “This is the Father’s will which hath sent He, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).
The pleasure of the Lord did proper in His hand! His enemies could not destroy Him. Death did not conqueror Him. The prophecy had declared, “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isaiah 53:10).
Although Jesus died, His days were prolonged by reason of the fact that He arose from the dead, never to die again.
Before Jesus went to the cross He saw “the travail of His soul.” He saw the sufferings but He also saw “His seed” — He saw that when He paid the price by the shedding of His blood that He would redeem all for whom He died. Those who crucified Jesus no doubt thought they had finally destroyed Him. To one observing this scene of death by crucifixion it would appear Jesus’ claims had come to naught and He was defeated by his enemies.
The Father’s will was done. Jesus successfully bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
Some have called the book of Isaiah “the gospel of the Old Testament,” and certainly the good news is beautifully proclaimed in it. This is not a message of self-help and self-esteem. This is the message that declares hope for sinners who could never save, or even help to save, themselves. This is not a message that calls for moral reform and good works whereby one might recommend himself to God.
Now the question may be asked, how can I know that I am one of those for whom Jesus died? Jesus answers the question himself, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47). Have you recognized your need of a Savior? Do you see yourself as a bankrupt sinner with nothing to pay? Do you repent and turn Jesus, acknowledging He is the only away, the only Savior of sinners? Do you believe on him?
Because Isaiah also writes: “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). If you believe on Jesus Christ today—trusting that He has taken your place, your punishment, in order for you to be healed—then it is because the irresistible strength of the Lord has revealed it to you!