The Suffering and Death of the Messiah (Isaiah 50–53)

Isaiah chapters 50 through 53 refer to Jesus Christ as what has been called “the Suffering Messiah” or “the Suffering Servant.” Indeed those four chapters are filled with references to the mistreatment and horrible death of Jesus Christ on a cross of wood.

You read in the last section of this chapter how Jesus';s own countrymen rejected him as the Messiah. But there would be more to this story than the people';s refusal to believe Jesus and who he claimed to be. This rejection would lead Jesus to his ultimate earthly mission: his sacrificial death.

What is most amazing about this portion of Isaiah';s book is the details concerning the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ — details we can easily read of in the Gospels, all four of which give glimpses into the death of the Lord. From a purely human and physical standpoint, it is a brutal picture.

Isaiah 50:6 tells the account of a Messiah who would be brutally — yet willingly — beaten about the face and back, mocked and humiliated, have his beard pulled out, and spit upon: “I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting.”

Later, in chapter 52, Isaiah records that the physical abuse and beating of the Messiah would be so severe that, “many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man” (52:14).

Although Isaiah paints a poignant picture of a suffering and dying Jesus Christ, one of the best Old Testament prophecies concerning the crucified Christ appears is Psalm 22, which tells us that the Messiah';s hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16), that he would be mocked (Psalm 22:8), that he would cry out to God but be forsaken (Psalm 22:1).

Isaiah tells us that all these things would happen to the Messiah despite the fact that he was innocent of any crime (Isaiah 53:9), despite the fact that he said nothing to his accusers (53:7). He would suffer great sorrow and grief (53:3), would be oppressed and afflicted (53:7), and would be thought of as cursed by God (53:4).

But all of these things didn';t happen to the Messiah Jesus Christ for nothing. Isaiah explains that these things happened so that each and every one of us who put our faith in him can be healed, saved, and forgiven:

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God';s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:4–6)

This is the central message of the whole Bible: that God saw a human race so lost and weak and enslaved to sin and corruption that it was completely unable to do anything to improve itself, much less save itself. But because of the amazing love of God, “it was the Lord';s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants” (Isaiah 53:10).

Prophecies aren';t really prophecies unless they come true. The incredibly accurate fulfillment of Isaiah';s “Suffering Servant” prophecies is found in, among other places, Matthew 26:67 and 27:26, which describe the beatings and abuse Jesus endured.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus willingly gave himself up for our sins, and because of that we are able to find healing and forgiveness, enjoy fellowship with God the Father, and inherit an eternal home in heaven. That is the message Isaiah preached, and it';s the message Jesus lived out in every way, including dying a horrible death for all of us on a cross.

Study Questions

Read John 3:16 then Isaiah 53:10. How would you describe God';s attitude and heart in sending Jesus to live and die for all of us?

How does Isaiah';s description of Jesus';s abuse and death affect your view of sin, forgiveness, and salvation?

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