by Mike Ratliff
13 Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand. Isaiah 52:13-15 (NASB)
In his fine book Escape from Reason, Francis Schaeffer analyzed 20th Century philosophy, science, art, and popular culture to get to the “cause,” if you will, of the decline of reason, which was and is still shaping our society. Modern thought in our time, it seems, has been diverted from an eternal, heavenly focus to one that is entirely geared to the temporal. Part of his thesis is that the advent of humanistic philosophy and reason began with Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). He contends that prior to Aquinas, the heavenly things were all-important, but since his teaching and discussion of “nature and grace,” the focus of human thought has made the temporal all-important with the heavenly becoming only an abstract “unreality.”
A troubling product of this line of reasoning has been growing and developing for well over the last 150 years in the humanizing of Christianity. Spurgeon called it the “Great Downgrade.” All through their ministries in the 20th Century, A.W. Pink and A.W. Tozer sounded the alarms of the this move away from the genuine Gospel which produced godly Christians living in an eternal focus to a man-centered gospel which produced mostly religious Christians who had no idea why Jesus really went to the cross. If we were to take a poll of “average” pew sitters to see who could define the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ I think the results would be very discouraging. If we were to go by what is usually preached in the vast majority of “evangelical” churches Sunday after Sunday then we will see why most of those people will believe that Christianity is all about having felt needs met, being healthy, and wealthy. Or, in other churches they may hear only about cultural relevancy and everyone just getting along or Social Justice. In any case, they never hear of Jesus being wounded for our transgressions.
1 Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:1-5 (NASB)
The question in v1 implies that in spite of all of prophecies speaking of the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, only a few would recognize Him as such. He came as the suffering Servant instead of the conquering King, whom they were looking for. The rulers of the Jews and most of the people did not welcome him.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. John 1:9-11 (NASB)
The second part of v1 speaking of the arm of the Lord is telling us that even though Jesus performed miracles that only could be done by God, most people did not recognize His power in that very thing, which was a sign that their Deliverer was in their presence, and they rejected Him. In v2 the “He” is Jesus Christ while the “Him” is the Father. Though Jesus grew up unrecognized by the world, the Father sovereignly ordered all circumstances of His life. Jesus did not wear the soft rich clothing of rulers or the wealthy. He came from humble beginnings and lived simply. I remember several years ago hearing a “preacher” on TBN say something like this, “Jesus was wealthy, and he wore designer clothes, and drove the finest cars.” Of course he was trying to say that Jesus preached the same message he preached which was, “come to Jesus so He can make you healthy and wealthy.” Utter nonsense! Jesus came humbly and those who did recognize Him did so by faith instead of by seeing outward manifestations of whom He really was.
In v3 we see exactly how Jesus was received by nearly everyone. He was hated and rejected. This not only hurt Him physically, it hurt Him in His Spirit. He grieved when people refused to believe His message or receive Him as Lord. I think that this part of this passage gives me the most grief. I tear up when I read it or hear that song based on these verses. Why? Because I know that I am just as responsible for His sorrow as the people who saw Him there. I am a sinner who rebelled and lived sinfully for over 34 years before He saved me. If you are in Christ, this should break your heart as well for all of us are sinners who deserve nothing but hellfire. Not only was Jesus despised by the Jews when He came, when He was crucified they did not show Him any respect, but vilified Him instead.
In v4 we have the miracle and wonderful work of God placing the darkness, the consequences of the sin of His people, on Christ. Christ bore the consequences of His people’s sin as He died on the cross. However, those watching Him die thought that He was suffering for His own sins and that God approved of it. Ironically, they were right, but He was sinless. It was for the sins of His people that He suffered and died. In v5 we see very clearly that Christ was the substitute for those for whom He died. He deserved none of it. It was me that should have to suffer for my sins. I should have to be wounded for my transgressions and bruised for my iniquities. However, all that would do would be to destroy me. However, one who knew no sin took my place and bore my sins and paid the price in His death so that I could have peace with God. And the same for all whose names are in the Book of Life of the Lamb. In the last part of v5 we read, “And by His scourging we are healed.” Here is Peter’s version.
24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB)
The healing then is what? Through the wounds of Christ before and at the Cross, believers are healed of the great and deadly spiritual sickness of sin. Peter tells us that salvation includes dying to sin and living righteously. This is the healing that we will deal with progressively the rest of our lives in these bodies. However, in eternity we will be totally free from sin.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:6-12 (NASB)
None of us deserve salvation. We are stupid sheep going our own way. We are all sinners. However, God took our sins and laid them on Christ. This caused Jesus to suffer and die horribly, but he opened not His mouth. He never tried to talk His way out of it. He did not rail and complain. He simply spoke the truth at certain points, but kept silent the rest of the time. Christ was spit upon. He was treated shamefully. Even in death he was laid in someone else’s tomb. He had committed no crimes or any sins whatsoever yet He was hated and killed. However, all of this was the will of the Father. Christ fulfilled the role as the Lamb of God. His sacrifice satisfied God’s requirements for payment for our sin. Think of it. All through His ordeal before and on the Cross, Christ knew that through his suffering and death many would be accounted righteous by the Father with His Righteousness. When Christ’s Kingdom is fulfilled He will enjoy the spoils of His victory on the Cross. When we see Jesus we will see Him in His glorified body, but bearing the marks of His suffering and death. His scars will ever be before us. He is interceding for us right now. He is praying that you will read this passage from Isaiah and understand, and take it to heart and live your life in light of it.
Why would anyone take this precious gift of salvation and make it the basis of a temporal blasphemous fiction that says that people can partake of it if they feel like it. If they say that prayer they are saved whether they are actually changed by it or not. That is a huge insult against my Lord and precious Saviour. Those dealing in this falsehood will have to deal with Him in eternity. Until then though, let’s tell the truth about why Jesus went to the Cross and make people understand that they are sinners who are on the way to Hell unless they receive Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Soli Deo Gloria!