By David Faust
“Would you mind if I read from the Bible?” Mario asked. His companion nodded. Without identifying the Scripture passage, Mario began to read aloud from Isaiah 53 about a man who bore our sorrows, who was pierced for our transgressions, and by whose wounds we are healed. Soon the other fellow interrupted and said, “Look, I respect your beliefs as a Christian. But I’m Jewish, and I don’t accept your New Testament as the Word of God.”
Mario replied, “Actually I was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the prophet Isaiah.” His friend was speechless.
Isaiah 53 reads like a BC Gospel. The chapter describes the Messiah so vividly it sounds like the words come from the New Testament. It records accurate details about Jesus Christ hundreds of years before he was born. That’s why Philip used this very passage of Scripture to tell an Ethiopian official the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35).
Let’s look at Isaiah 53 and see what this remarkable chapter reveals about Christ:
He was an individual. In an attempt to avoid the messianic implications of Isaiah 53, some have suggested that the Suffering Servant depicted here is the nation of Israel. However, throughout the chapter the messianic figure is pictured as an individual (“he”) who serves, assists, and redeems God’s people (“we”). “He” carried our sins. “We” esteemed him not. In this chapter the Servant isn’t a group; the Servant serves the group.
He came from a humble background. “Like a root out of dry ground” (v. 2), Jesus was born in the obscure village of Bethlehem and grew up in the ordinary town of Nazareth.
Many found him unappealing. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected . . . and we held him in low esteem” (vv. 2, 3). Jesus was rejected by many of his own people (John 1:11).
He sacrificed himself for others. “He took up our pain and bore our suffering . . . he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. . . . The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (vv. 4-6). Although written centuries before the crucifixion, these verses reveal what Christ accomplished when he died on the cross.
He refused to defend himself. Jesus said little in his own defense at his trial, even when enemies hurled false accusations and puzzled inquisitors like Herod, Pilate, and the chief priest interrogated him. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet . . . as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (v. 7).
He died in the company of sinners. “Assigned a grave with the wicked” (v. 9), Jesus was crucified between two thieves—“numbered with the transgressors” (v. 12).
Death didn’t end his story. According to Isaiah, after his suffering the Lamb of God would “see the light of life and be satisfied” (v. 11)—a prophecy that came into clear focus after Jesus rose from the dead.
Written centuries before Christ walked the earth, Isaiah 53 offers compelling evidence for the identity of the Messiah.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 20, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Isaiah 40, 41
Isaiah 42, 43
Isaiah 44, 45
Isaiah 49, 50