Who has believed--The suffering is offensive.

Isaiah 53:1-3 SCC 12/22/13

They did not believe the report 1

If we paraphrase the first verse we would say something like, No one ever imagined this. The verse is expressed in the form of questions.  The penitent would reflect on the suffering Servant and eventually come to realize God was at work.  But that realization would take belief and revelation.  For ages Israel did not believe such suffering was at the heart of God's redemptive plan.

The suffering is observed 2-3

Verse 2: describes his beginnings like a tender plant in a parched ground.  His beginnings were unlikely.  Who would have thought that a "carpenter's son" out of Nazareth would figure prominently in the divine plan.  There was nothing appealing or attractive in his appearance that would make Israel rally to him.

Verse 3: reports that he was despised, that is, looked down on, held in contempt, as well as rejected.  His life was filled with grief and sorrows, so that men turned away their faces from him.  In short, they did not "esteem him," they didn't think much of him, especially in his condition.

PT: If people at first make rash observations about the suffering of God's Servant, they are soon led in their conscience to realize its purpose. In this section they realize that the suffering is vicarious.


A. The Servantís suffering is punishment 4

The earliest and most common moral judgment, which people pass on pain, is that people suffer because God is angry with them. That is what Job's visitors concluded about his suffering. Here, Israel says, "We esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."  That is, they saw the suffering Servant and thought God was striking him. But now they knew they were wrong.  The hand of God was indeed upon the Servant, and the reason was sin, yet the sin was not his, but theirs. 

B.  The punishment of the Servant was redemptive 5-6

Verse 5: he was wounded for our transgressions and he was crushed for our iniquities. The contrast is between "he" and "our."  All his suffering was because of our rebellions and sins. The second set of expressions clarifies the purpose of this vicarious or substitutionary suffering as redemptiveThe chastisement of our peace and by his stripes we are healed. The peace, the healing, is ours in consequence of the chastisement and scourging.  The pain was his in consequence of the sin that was ours--that is, the suffering was vicarious.  And the pain brought spiritual healing and peace--that is, the suffering was redemptive.

Verse 6: That the suffering is vicarious and redemptive is confessed by Israel, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  The verse begins and ends with "all."  Substitutionary suffering of this Servant touches all who have sinned--and we know that that is all of us. There are two reasons people endure suffering in this world--justice and love.  We often suffer because we ourselves are not innocent.  We share the cause of pain in the world.  This is justice.  But to suffer in service to God is a demonstration of love.  The epitome of this is the suffering Servant. The suffering of this Servant far outdistanced human vicarious suffering; his suffering removes sin.  God himself had to carry the sins of his people. 


A.  The suffering Servant accepts in silence 7

What is so remarkable is that although he was afflicted and oppressed, he did not open his mouth. In the Old Testament sufferers broke out into one of two voices--the voice of guilt or the voice of doubt.  The sufferer is either confessing his sin, which the suffering has called to his attention, or, when he feels no guilt, he is protesting his suffering, challenging God in argument. David, Jeremiah, Job, and countless others, including us we must confess, are not silent under pain.  We confess that we deserve it, or complain that we do not. Why was this Servant the unique sample of silence under suffering?  Because he knew the truth.  It had been said of him in 52:13:  "My servant shall deal wisely."  He had no guilt of his own, and no doubts of God.  He knew that is was not punishment he was enduring for himself, but that it was a service he was performing--a service laid on him by God.

B.  The suffering Servant accepts He is innocent 8-9

Verse 8: The prophet reports that the Servant was innocent.  He had done no violence; no guile was found in him.  Yet he was taken to judgment by tyrannical powers.  It was judicial murder.  And when they considered that he was lawfully put to death, the final insult would be that people would plan to bury Him among the wicked, implying His own wickedness.

Verse 9: He was innocent, but he willingly submitted to the oppression, an oppression that carried him to an ignominious burial.  From all appearances, an innocent man's life ended fruitlessly.  But nothing could be further from the truth. 


It appeared to many that the death of this Servant was an awful tragedy.  It was utterly a perversion of justice.  Surely here passed into oblivion the fairest life that ever lived.  People might see and say, God forsakes his own.  On the contrary, God's will and pleasure was in it.

A.  The suffering was expressive of Godís will 10

It pleased the Lord to bruise him begins the theological explanation of the suffering.  It does not mean God enjoyed this but that God willed the suffering.  It is that kind of pleasure.  This is the one message, which can render any pain tolerable--God willed it--it is his pleasure.  Thus, any that God calls to suffer for his service should make it their purpose to do his will, to please him.  Therein is success with God.

B.  The suffering was for our justification 10b-11

This suffering was efficacious, that is, it was powerful to effect its intended results: the justification of sinners.  God made this Servant a sin (guilt) offering for many, so that by their knowledge of him they might be justified.  In the Upper Room Jesus alluded to this passage by saying that the cup was His blood of the New Covenant poured out for many. So the effect of the suffering of our Lord is full atonement.  Paul says that he made him to be sin for us that we might become righteous 2 Cor 5. For those of us who have come to know him by faith, this suffering will receive eternal praise.  We, the guilty sinners, have been declared righteous before God.

C.  The suffering will lead to the Christís exaltation 11-12

Verse 11: After His sacrificial work had ended, the Servant would look back on it with satisfaction, as would the Lord. The many would obtain justification through the knowledge of Him and His work. The many is a distinct group, numerous but not all-inclusive, namely, believers. No other work is required but believing what one comes to know, namely, to rely on Him and His work.

Verse 12: Because of His work and its results God would exalt the Servant. He would give Him a reward with the many great ones whom He justified and would divide this booty with the many who would become strong by virtue of His work for them. The reason for the Servantís exaltation is that He would surrender Himself to death and consent to being numbered among the rebels against God; He would take His place among sinful humans. Yet He would do more than simply identify with the rebels. He would bear their sin and intercede for them.


1. The suffering of Jesus was vicarious in a way that no other has or ever could be--he took our sins on himself and made full atonement for them.  While we were yet sinners, he died for us.  He himself knew no sin, but suffered, the just for the unjust, that we, sinners, might become righteous before God.

2. There is no peace with God apart from the chastisement that he, the sinless Son of God, bore.  Jesus knew full well the purpose of his suffering, and willingly submitted to it as his service to God the Father in order to provide for us salvation. We have no healing for our souls, no removal of our sins, no justification before God, apart from the penal suffering of Christ, the substitutionary death in which he took our sins upon himself. 

3. Itís the will of God that we demonstrate the same type of sacrificial love that he had. If we are to love one another in Christ, we must realize that it will cost something. If we are to bear one another's burdens, it will mean that we will have to put ourselves out for others, to suffer with them, to give of our time, our talents, and our finances. We are called to a life of self-sacrificing love for others. And Christ shows us what that should look like. To submit to God's will and to sacrifice self are the hardest things for us to do; to accept suffering and death without complaint or doubt demands a living faith that sees suffering and death as a prelude to glory. But if we submit to God's will and sacrifice self for others, or for building up of the faith of others, we shall then be living out the love of Christ in this world pleasing our heavenly Father.