A Prophecy of the Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 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.

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.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.

They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

This prophecy is proclaimed on Good Friday. Isaiah’s words are used to describe the sufferings of Jesus and to proclaim their meaning. He did it for us. Jesus was the suffering servant who on the cross was clearly nothing to look at, nothing that would cause anyone to think of him as someone who was blessed by God. But it was our infirmities that he bore; our sins that he carried. He was a scapegoat for everything evil we had done, and he won for us salvation.

The cross has become more than a means of capital punishment. Somehow, by his suffering, Jesus has transformed his sufferings into our salvation, the cause of our joy. If we did not know the whole story, the cross would always look gruesome. It would certainly look like something to turn away from. Yet, we gaze upon the cross and see salvation.

When I was young, Good Friday seemed to be observed as a day when we should feel guilty for our sins. The service seemed to say, “Look at what you did to him!” rather than what this scripture passage says, “Look at what he did for you!” In many ways and in many places Good Friday is not celebrated. It is not a day of joy. Yet when we look at what Jesus did for us, when we see to what extent he was willing to go for us, how can we be anything but grateful, anything buy joyful. For on Good Friday we recall the wondrous love of God that has revealed to us in the sufferings of his only begotten Son.

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