The Suffering Servant (Part 2)

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The message of Isaiah 53 is so central to the ministry of Jesus, that I will devote seven articles to the chapter.

Rudy Ross has written extensively on Isaiah 53. I have interviewed Rudy on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. He has insights about the sacrificial system and our inside condition that you will find valuable.

I hope you will reserve time this week to meditate on Isaiah 53 each day. Please use this great chapter to deepen your love for God.

Who would believe this?

The message of the Suffering Servant begins with a question.

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
(Isaiah 53.1)

Who would believe that God would show his power by allowing what we are about to read happen to him?

Who would believe that the “arm of the Lord” would be seen to be most powerful when it was nailed to a cross?

Who would believe that God would conquer a world of people through vulnerable self-sacrifice?

The answer to the question of “Who has believed what we have heard?” is unfortunate that not too many people will believe the message?

John wrote about the unbelief of the crowd and quoted from Isaiah 53, “Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.

“This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

‘Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed’?”
(John 12.37-38)

Paul quoted extensively from Isaiah. Like John, he connected unbelief with Isaiah 53.1.

“But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’

“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10.16-17).

The question remains. Will we believe that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5.19) or not?

If we claim to believe, then is our belief reflected in our behavior?

God’s promise in chapters 49-52 was to deliver people from their alienation from him.

The means God chose to use to overcome our distance from him was the work of the Suffering Servant.

A Shocking Picture

Movie superheroes, who deliver people from evil villains, are powerful, physically attractive persons with magnetic personalities.

God’s Suffering Servant did not fit that picture at all.

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
(Isaiah 53.2)

The best way to understand this characterization of Jesus is to meditate on the picture that Isaiah painted of God’s Servant informed by the New Testament.

— Think of the powerless nation, Israel, that was swallowed up by the superpowers – Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Rome. It was in this small nation that the world’s Savior was born.

— Imagine the Savior’s birth taking place in a village. See him wrapped in cloths and having a feed trough as his first baby bed.

— Consider that Judas was required to identify Jesus with a kiss. His notoriety was so hidden that he needed to be pointed out to his accusers.

— Let his love and self-sacrifice cause you to desire him to be your friend and guide.

A Nobody

“Despised” in Hebrew means to consider something or someone to be worthless and unworthy of attention.

The world today does not hate Jesus, as did his accusers in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. The world simply doesn’t pay too much attention to Jesus. It is apathetic and uncaring.

Humans, then and now, do not see Jesus as having great significance for them. They don’t consider that he has anything of value for them.

He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
(Isaiah 53.3)

If you were a neutral bystander on Golgotha in A.D. 33 and watching three men experience Roman execution, you may see them as losers of the first magnitude.

If you were religious, you would believe that they were cursed by God, because you knew “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3.13).

At the least, you would believe that the man in the center could benefit no one. After all, he was just a dying criminal. Since he held no value to you, you decided to turn away in disgust.

Suppose someone stopped you as you walked away from the cross and said, “Do you think that man is the Savior of the world?”

You would have replied, “Absolutely not!”

However, the “arm of the Lord” was displayed on Golgotha through the Suffering Servant. God’s self-giving love has freed multitudes from slavery to pride, rebellion, and wickedness.

His grace has turned enemies into friends.

About This Blog

I hope you will join Rudy Ross and me on YouTube with an interview with Rudy. He will connect the sacrificial system with Isaiah 53 and the ministry of Jesus.

I am indebted to John Oswalt for his insights. His two-volume commentary on Isaiah is very insightful.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.

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