Pierced (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
When Lincoln’s body was brought from Washington to Illinois, it passed through a small city where the body was carried through the street. The story goes that a black woman stood upon the curb and lifted her little son as far as she could reach above the heads of the crowd. She then was heard to say, “Take a long look, honey. He died for you.”
Tonight, we want to take a long look at the cross of Jesus and hear those words, “Take a long look, honey. He died for you.”
We believe that the divine Son of God became flesh and died in the place of mankind. When Jesus was instituting the Lord’s Supper, he said of the cup, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Heb 3:12).
On the surface, we would likely expect God to use great power to save us from sin, yet he uses the sacrifice of his Servant.
There has been much discussion about the identity of the Suffering Servant in this passage. Some identify him as Isaiah, and others identify him as the nation Israel.
Although I do believe there is a dual nature of this prophecy, we do know the text ultimately refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Philip used this text to preach Jesus to the eunuch (Acts 8:32-35). Jesus understood his identity wrapped up in this text: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28)—Jesus speaks of himself both as a servant and as One who died in the place of others, just as Isaiah does in this passage.
Let’s examine this text and see Jesus’ suffering.
The Sublimation of the Savior, Isaiah 52:13
The Messiah would be exalted.
He would act wisely. The Suffering Servant, in other words, would do what was wise for our salvation. Through the cross of Jesus, God’s wisdom has been displayed to the world: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24).
The Messiah would be high and lifted up.
This phrase is used three time in Isaiah and nowhere else in the Old Testament. Each time this phrase refers to God’s being lifted up. Jesus, because he was God, would be highly exalted.
Because of his death, Jesus has been highly exalted (Phil. 2:9-11).
Are you exalting Jesus in your life? Oh, it’s easy on a day such as this one—when even the world is thinking about the Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus—to say that he is exalted in our lives. But what about tomorrow morning, will Jesus have an exalted position in our lives? Will we spend valuable time in prayer, praising the Father for the sacrifice of his Son? Will we determine how we treat our coworkers based on how we feel or on the words of Jesus?
Will Jesus truly have the first place in our lives?
The Shock of the Savior, Isaiah 52:14-15
The people were shocked by the Servant’s appearance.
The people were shocked because his appearance was marred beyond human form. Many use this text to say that Jesus was ugly, yet the text doesn’t mean that. This figuratively means that the sufferings were so great that they disfigured Jesus.
Crucifixion was a quite disfiguring event. Before one even got to the cross, he was severely scourged. The criminal was stripped and tied to a post. He was then lashed with leather whips on the end of which were tied small metal objects and small bones. By the time the criminal had received his lashes, it was not at all uncommon to have internal organs exposed by the brutality.
Jesus was then mocked as a king by having a crown of thorn beat into his brow. Nails pierced his hands and feet and a sword pierced his side. By the time Jesus was removed from the cross, there is little doubt but that he was highly disfigured.
The people were shocked because of his exaltation.
The kings shut their mouths because he was exalted. They did not expect one so hideous to be exalted.
People did not know what to do with Jesus. Pilate didn’t know what to do with Jesus. The people expected the Messiah to come with great power and subdue the earth. Yet, he cared and died for man; men simply didn’t know what to do.
What will you do with Jesus? You must do something with him. You either believe his claims or you don’t. You either obey him because of his claims or you don’t. What will you do?
The Spectacle of the Savior, Isaiah 53:1-3
No one has believed.
These words were written for those Jews who would be in Babylonian captivity. The exiles had spoken about the Messiah to their captors, yet they were not believed. Many do not believe the preaching about Jesus today.
He shall grow before him like a dry shoot.
This refers to the unwanted shoot that grows from the root of a tree—you don’t want that shoot to grow from the tree. Deliverers are usually magnetic individuals, but this Deliverer really wasn’t wanted.
Jesus was despised.
There was nothing about Jesus that caused men to he attracted to him. He is despised and rejected. To despise something means to consider it as unworthy of attention. People refused to accept him as the Messiah; people continue to refuse to accept him. He is acquainted with suffering—He suffers so much that he is accustomed to it. We hid our faces from him. Again, the idea is that the suffering has been so severe that the Messiah’s physical appearance is marred. The Servant’s wounds are so gross it’s hard for people to look at him.
Jesus suffered much for our sins—he was mocked, beaten, spat upon, crucified—all because we’re sinful.
The Substitution of the Savior, Isaiah 53:4-6
During World War II, an enemy submarine approaches a fleet of ships in the North Atlantic. The captain of one vessels spots the white mark of a torpedo coming directly at his ship. His transport is loaded with literally hundreds and hundreds of young soldiers on the way to the European front. He realized they will not have time to maneuver to avoid the torpedo. He grabs the loudspeaker and cries out, “Boys, this is it!”
Nearby, though, a little escorting destroyer also observes the torpedo. The captain orders, “Full speed ahead.” His ship steams into the path of the torpedo. The destroyer is blown up; it sinks very quickly. Every man on it is lost. The captain of the troop transport ship sadly comments, “The skipper of that destroyer was my best friend.”
In a very real sense, Jesus did the same thing for us by dying at Golgotha in our place.
He has borne our griefs and sorrows—The suffering that made him so unattractive belonged to us.
We believed he was smitten by God. The idea in the Ancient Near East was that if someone suffered, he had sinned to deserve the punishment—Job’s three friends kept telling him that he had sinned against God. The people thought that since Jesus was suffering that he must have sinned.
But he was wounded for our sins.
Jesus suffered for sin, but not for his own sins—he suffered for our sins. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24).
The punishment which brings us peace was upon him. “Peace” here refers to a right relationship with God. Because Jesus died for us, we can have a good relationship with God.
This shows how seriously God takes our sin—Jesus had to die to take it away. Sin is nothing to wink about; sin is nothing to play with; sin is not just a “mistake.” It was because of our sin that the perfect Son of God went to the cross. How can I not take sin seriously when Jesus had to die because of sin?
A home known as the “House of a Thousand Terrors” once stood in Rotterdam, Holland. During the sixteenth century, Spain’s King Philip II suppressed a Dutch rebellion. After they conquered Rotterdam, the Spanish soldiers went from house to house slaughtering those they found. One family hid in the corner of the house and heard the soldiers approaching. A young man quickly grabbed a goat that had wandered into the house, butchered it, and swept its blood under the door.
When the soldiers reached the house, they reached to open the door, but when they eyed the blood, they concluded that other soldiers had already executed the inhabitants. ne soldier said, “Let’s keep going. There is blood coming from under the door; our work here is done.” Jesus’ blood, like the blood of that goat, preserves us from the judgment of our sins.
All we like sheep have gone astray.
There is great emphasis in this verse that everyone has gone astray. Everyone has sinned. “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
Four preachers were having lunch together. During the conversation one preacher said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hearts, confess certain sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul.” In due time, all agreed. One confessed that he really liked movies and that he would often go see a movie when he was supposed to be working. The second confessed to enjoying cigars and another confessed to enjoying a glass of wine with dinner. When it came to the fourth preacher, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, “Come on, we confessed ours. What is your vice?” Finally, he answered, “It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”
Jesus suffered and died because we have all sinned.
The Submissiveness of the Savior, Isaiah 53:7
Jesus remained silent. Although he was oppressed and afflicted, Jesus did not open his mouth. Although he was led to be executed, he did not open his mouth.
This shows Jesus’ willingness to die.
Jesus could have opened his mouth, he could have performed some great miracle, and he wouldn’t have had to die. Yet, he willingly died for our sins. Jesus could have asked for more than 12 legions of angels (Matt 26:53). Jesus laid down his life of his own accord (Jn 10:18).
Jesus did not have to die for our sins; he chose to do so.
The Scorn of the Savior, Isaiah 53:8-9
Here, Isaiah paints just how unjust Jesus’ trial was.
He was taken from prison and from judgment—His trial was unfair from start to finish. No one will declare his generation. This means that no one cared that Jesus left no heir. n Jesus’ culture dying childless meant that one had lived a futile life.
Yet, he was stricken for the transgression of the people.
His grave was made with the wicked—He wasn’t allowed to be buried among people like himself
He was with the rich in his death—He was buried in a rich man’s tomb.
Yet, he had done nothing wrong. He had done no violence—Jesus never committed an act of violence. No deceit was in his mouth—Jesus never once spoke an untruth. Jesus lived a perfect life (1 Pet. 2:21), yet he died for our sins.
The Set Purpose of the Savior, Isaiah 53:10
It pleased the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief
The cross wasn’t an accident—God planned it. Jesus was delivered into sinful hands “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). God intended that Jesus should die for our sins.
Jesus died for the sins of all. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2). Have you received the benefits of the death of Jesus?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.