Isaiah 53 – Jesus Christ, the Busted Servant

Isaiah 53 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans

Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans

Today’s PassageIsaiah 53

There was a time that I had this chapter memorized, and I could probably still recite a good bit of it from memory. It depicts the Lord’s Servant as suffering for the well-being of others, with a number of concrete prophetic descriptions which are fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

According to Isaiah, the Servant will suffer physically. Isaiah states:

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. (53:5)

We can take this verse as a cross-section of the prophecy and see how Jesus specifically fulfills it. In his gospel, John reports that a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear to verify his death (John 19:34). John also tells us that Pilate had Jesus flogged (John 19:1), which Matthew corroborates (Matt. 27:26). However, John reports: “Coming to Jesus, when [the soldiers] saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs” (John 19:33). Jesus’ unbroken bones fulfill another prophecy: “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:20). But if Jesus’ bones go unbroken, then how can the second line of Isaiah 53:5 be fulfilled? How was Jesus “crushed?”

It is a trustworthy saying from your friend Jackson Ferrell: when in doubt, hit up your Strong’s Concordance. I took a look at the Hebrew word here, which is dakah: to collapse. It can refer to being broken to pieces, but the sense I’m getting is that it can also refer more generally to getting broken down or busted up, and that it doesn’t necessarily refer to being physically crushed. In a spiritual sense, it can describe being humbled, as when the psalmist uses it to describe “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Although his bones remained intact, Jesus’ body received more than its share of brutality leading up to the crucifixion. Per Matthew’s gospel, the religious leaders get their hits in once the high priest delivers the verdict of blasphemy: “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him” (Matt. 26:67). A translator’s note in the NASB tells me that “slapped” may alternately be rendered “beat him with rods.” The Roman soldiers also get their turn at abusing him: “They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head” (Matt. 27:30). The reed in question had been handed to him as a mock scepter, which along with the crown of thorns and scarlet robe composed the faux-monarchical regalia that the soldiers used to satirize Jesus’ kingship. Which brings us to another point: Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t just a physical crushing. It was humiliating, a crushing of his spirit.

To turn my attention back to Isaiah 53, it’s striking just how much ignominy the Suffering Servant must endure. He doesn’t just suffer pain. He’s hated, looked down upon, held in contempt. Isaiah states, “He was despised and forsaken of men…we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted” (53:3-4). His fellow humans reject him, and more than that, they believe that God himself has rejected him. Jesus, convicted by the Jewish religious leaders on false charges of blasphemy, fits that bill. The Servant’s suffering is monumentally unfair. Isaiah prophesies, “By oppression and judgment He was taken away” (53:8), and adds, “He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (53:9). The Servant is punished for crimes he didn’t commit: our crimes as human beings.

While looking for the reference on Jesus’ pierced side, I came across an article from discussing the possible medical causes for both blood and water coming from the wound. I learned a good bit about blood loss and hypovolemic shock from it, which may also be of interest to you. Give it a look and find out more about what Jesus Christ endured for you and me.


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