The Suffering Servant Who Rose In Victory – Isaiah 53

The Suffering Servant Who Rose In Victory

Nick Esch, 4/1/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Psalm 118:24)… This is the Lord’s Day… This is Easter Sunday… This is Resurrection Day… This is a glorious day… Every Sunday we gather in celebration of the truths that it is finished—Jesus has paid it all, and that He is risen—and because He lives so will we… And all of this hinges on what happened on this weekend all those years ago… Don Carson has said that, “The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.” And if that’s true of the Bible how much more so of our lives?

Friends, the gospel is the most important message in existence… It defines our lives as Christians and it’s where true life is found… And at the heart of the gospel is this weekend… On this weekend, roughly 2,000 years ago Christ was crucified; and then on the third day, on the Sunday after His death, up from the grave He rose… He got up from the grave, He defeated death, He defeated sin, and He satisfied God’s wrath for His people… But over 700 years before the cross of Christ, Isaiah laid out what happened perfectly… Jesus Himself said in Luke 22:37, “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” There He was speaking of Isaiah 53; and in Isaiah 53 we find an amazing picture of the gospel… Charles Spurgeon called this chapter, “the Bible in miniature, the Gospel at its essence…” And so, today we’re going to look at this gospel message, we’re going to look at Good Friday and Easter through the lens of Isaiah 53… And given the critical nature of the gospel, regardless of how familiar you may think you are with this message, you would do well to give it your upmost attention this morning… Because again, if the Bible pivots on this, how much more so our lives? So let’s dive in…

Isaiah 53

Our text begins in verse 1 with the questions, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Well the answer to the first question seems to be no one, and the answer to the second question is first Israel and then the world… Isaiah says, “Who has believed what he has heard from us?…” Us being the prophets of Israel; those who faithfully proclaimed God’s Word… And then he speaks of the arm of the Lord. And what’s typically meant by the arm of the Lord in God’s Word is the power of God in action… And in this context the power of God in action is Jesus, the Suffering Servant Himself… And we can see this as the text shifts from speaking of the arm of the Lord to speaking of a person…

In verse 2 we read, “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, and no beauty that we should desire him.” So, notice that the arm of the Lord is now referred to as a He. And in light of the whole of Scripture this makes sense… The gospel is the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ; who He is and what He has done and will do… And in Romans 1:16 we’re told that the gospel, “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Or we could say to Israel and to the world… And that’s exactly what we’re being told here… The power of God in action, the power of God for salvation is revealed in a person, in a servant, in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, in Jesus…

In Isaiah 52:13, just before this we’re told that the one Isaiah 53 speaks of is indeed a servant. God’s Word says, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” And we refer to Isaiah 53 as the Suffering Servant passage, because it tells us how this Servant of God suffered for the sins of man; it tells us how Jesus conquered through death… Now, outside of the grace of God no one believes this message… Even Israel who saw Jesus face to face didn’t see Him for who He was; that’s in part because they weren’t looking for a suffering servant, but a conquering hero; but also, Isaiah says, they didn’t see Jesus rightly because, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

Jesus looked like an average Palestinian Jew… He didn’t look special or attractive… He didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes… And He certainly didn’t look like what they were looking for in a King… So in verse 3 Isaiah tells us, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” But, Jesus was and is the King of the universe. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). He is the, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16)… We owe Him our allegiance. We were created for Him… We owe Him our esteem… To esteem is to regard highly or favorably, with proper respect and admiration… But Isaiah says that we despised Him and esteemed Him not… We were created to delight in Him and esteem Him, but in our sin we despise Him and esteem Him not… This was true of Israel and the world by and large… And that’s because it’s true of everyone in their sin…

In the flesh we are unable to see the beauty and majesty of Jesus… His beauty can only be seen by faith… In verse 2 it says that after coming to this world Jesus grew up before God… He was always before God’s eyes; but the eyes of man never rightly looked upon Him, at least not without a work of grace… Jesus has always been in perfect communion with God the Father and God the Spirit… Our triune God is holy, perfect, and good, and has always existed in perfect joy in and of Himself. And even after Jesus left heaven and came to earth to save sinners, before going to the cross God always looked upon Him in love and joy… But He was despised and rejected by men… He was not rightly esteemed… And this is the heart of what sin is: rejecting God, not esteeming Him rightly; and regardless of what we think, if we don’t esteem God rightly we despise Him because we belittle Him and seek to put ourselves in His place…

This is what mankind has been doing since Adam and Eve, but this is especially what happened when Jesus came to earth… In verse 4 we read, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” In other words, He took on our sorrows and sufferings, yet the world thought He was being punished by God for His disobedience… The Jewish leaders accused Him of sinning against God and had Him sentenced to death. And notice that Isaiah says, “we esteemed him stricken…” In other words he’s including himself with those who would have Jesus crucified… He did that 700 years before it happened… And understand, we should write ourselves into that as well, even 2,000 years after it happened… Sure we’d like to think that we would do better, but we wouldn’t… As that old hymn asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Friends, we were there, because we are no different than they in our flesh… We would have shouted crucify Him because we would have thought Him guilty… And as we watched Him suffer we would’ve thought He was getting what He deserved for His sin… Oh, but it wasn’t His sin that He suffered and died for, but ours…

In verse 5 we read, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” They esteem Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted; they thought He was being punished by God for His sin, and we would’ve too… But, in actuality, God in the flesh was being punished for our sin… It was our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities… And notice the language here; again, this was written 700 years before the cross, yet God’s Word says, “he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . . he was pierced . . . . he was crushed…” This is what is known as prophetic perfects… In other words, God has said it, so it is as good as done… That’s why the Bible speaks of Jesus as the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world… In other words, God’s plan before He created the world was to save the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is not plan B… There are no plan Bs with God… The cross was the plan before creation, so Isaiah can say with confidence that Jesus will be pierced, crushed, chastised, and wounded for our salvation… He can write as if it was already done, because it was already as good as done… And as we look back at the cross, we look back knowing that all of this did indeed happen, that it is finished… God made good on His Word, as He always does…

Jesus was pierced for our transgressions by three nails and one spear… His chastisement brought us peace… The idea behind chastisement here is corporal punishment… And that’s what happened… Jesus was tried, He was flogged and beaten, and then He was crucified… It was corporal punishment inflicted upon Him as though He had committed a crime… But it wasn’t He who committed the crime, but us… So He took our punishment… He was wounded for us… He had a crown of thorns beaten into His head, His beard ripped from His face… Pierced, chastised, wounded… Oh but worst of all, He was crushed for our iniquities… In verse 10 Isaiah elaborates on this a bit, saying, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…” Jesus wasn’t crushed by the beatings, by the nails, by the cross, or by the spear; He was crushed by the wrath of almighty God…

Verse 6 helps us understand this; it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This is the Old Testament language of atonement and of sacrificial lambs… And that’s exactly what Jesus is… He’s the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, because it was laid on Him… “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—everyone—to his own way…” And basically what that means is what Romans 3:23 says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have turned to our own way instead of God’s way… We have sought to live for ourselves instead of God’s glory… We have despised Him and esteemed Him not…

As I said earlier, we were created to delight in Jesus and esteem Him, but in our sin we despise Him and esteem Him not, we turn to our own way… And why do we do that? Because we think we know better than God… We think our way is better than God’s way… That’s essentially what sin is, and that’s always what sin promises. Our sin tells us that there is more joy to be had in sin, there is more pleasure to be found in doing things our way, in going after the desires of our flesh, than there is to be found in Christ… Sin says, “Just come with me… Go here, do this, look at that, try this… Follow me into the darkness, for there’s joy in the night…” And indeed there may be some pleasure in the night… But there is always sorrow in the morning… But with God, in following Jesus, as Psalm 30:5 tells us, sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning… Our way leads to destruction, God’s way leads to eternal life… Our way leads to ruin, following Jesus who is the life, the truth, and the way leads to eternal joy…

From what may seem like the smallest sin, to the greatest—every sin is an offense against the infinitely perfect, just, good God of the universe… Every sin offends His infinite glory… Therefore every sin is an infinite offense, and deserves infinite wrath, infinite punishment… But God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. “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 Corinthians 5:21)… And when He took on our sin, He took on the punishment for our sin: the infinite righteous wrath of God, in all of its fury… We have committed a crime against God; and the punishment for that crime is infinite wrath… But Jesus took that wrath on Himself, and it crushed Him… It was the Lord who crushed Him… As bad as the cross and all that sinful man did to Him was, it does not compare to the wrath and fury of almighty God that was poured out upon Him…

And it was God’s will that this happen… It was the will of the Lord to crush Him this way… Peter says the same thing when he’s preaching to the Jews in Acts 2:23. He says, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (the will of God), you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Jesus was delivered up, He was crucified, and He was crushed according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God… This was God’s plan A, and there is no plan B… And though it was the hands of lawless men that crucified and killed Him, it was God, it was God’s wrath that crushed Him.

In verse 7 and 8 we read, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 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, stricken for the transgression of my people?” Isaiah is saying that Jesus went to the cross willingly, and on that cross He was cut off and stricken for the transgression of the people of God… Now, those who were doing this didn’t realize what all was happening; that’s why Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)… As they hung Him there on that cross He was cut off from God and soon cut of from life. As it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” . . . . But that was the point. In hanging on the tree, on the cross, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13)… He was cut off and cursed… For the first time ever, He was cut off from God’s loving presence and He was under God’s wrath… He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then with the fury of a hundred billion Niagara Falls, God’s wrath poured out upon Him until it was completely satisfied. Because Jesus is God the Son, because He is the infinite God of the universe in the flesh, He was able to satisfy God’s infinite wrath in a few hours on the cross… He took the cup of God’s wrath and drank it down to the dregs, and proclaimed, “It is finished…” Imagine a man standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls, under all its force and water pressure, and yet not only be able to take it, but to drink it until there was no water left… That’s essentially what Jesus did with God’s wrath… It was a spiritual reality that wasn’t visible to those around Him, but it was far more intense and real than the nails holding Him to the cross… And He suffered under it until it was satisfied…

In verse 11 we’re told that, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Jesus is God… He had knowledge of all that was going to happen… It wasn’t forced upon Him… No one take’s His life; He Himself says, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). “[F]or the joy that was set before him [He] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2)… You see it wasn’t nails, or even our sin that held Jesus to the cross, but love… His love for the Father and His love for His people… He was a willing and joyful Savior… And He was the only suitable Savior…

Verse 9 says, after He died, “they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” He had done nothing wrong, and He said nothing wrong. He was perfect in Word and deed. He had total moral purity… He was the perfect man… And that made Him a suitable sacrifice for the sins of man… As the perfect man He could stand in the place of men as our representative… As verse 10 says, his soul could make an offering for guilt… And notice that legal language… The language of guilt, the language of chastisement, the language of transgression… And these are between us and God… In our sin we are guilty before God, we deserve the wrath of God, we have transgressed against God… Understand then, that the cross of Christ first and foremost saves us from God… But, it had to be the perfect sacrifice to save us from God… It had to be the perfect man, and the perfect God… The perfect man being a suitable substitute, and the perfect God being a sufficient sacrifice; and that’s who Jesus is… He’s 100% man and 100% God…

A few weeks ago my family and I went to the zoo… At one point we stopped to buy a drink, and while we were in line I noticed this little girl—maybe 2 or 3 years old—come up and snatch a bag of popcorn… Her mother quickly got it from her and took it back, so it was no big deal; but it could have been… For instance, let’s say I’m in line and a young boy—about 10 years old or so—tries to buy popcorn, but when he goes to pay for it he realizes that he’s a dollar short. Now, I could offer him a dollar and cover the cost no problem. The clerk would take the money, and the boy would take the popcorn. All parties would be happy with the transaction… That’s suitable.. It’s no problem… But let’s say it went down different, and this time he just does what that little girl did, but he keeps running. He takes the popcorn and takes off… The clerk goes after him screaming, “Thief!” But when he gets around the corner this boy runs into a police officer. Now I could offer to pay for the popcorn completely, but that might not get him off the hook. At this point he’s done something both morally and legally wrong; he’s broken the law. And so a few bucks for popcorn isn’t going to cover his offense. The officer and the clerk do not have to accept my money, they don’t have to set this boy free, because it’s about more than a debt, it’s also about justice…

Well friends, that’s how it is with us… Our offense against God is both moral and legal; and it’s an infinite offense… So, it couldn’t just be anyone who paid the price for our sin… Just because someone tries to pay the price for our sin doesn’t mean that they did… Just because someone sets out to satisfy the wrath of God due His people, doesn’t mean they did… But we know for sure that Christ did indeed pay the price, that He is indeed the perfect sacrifice, that He did indeed satisfy the wrath of God… That He was both a suitable and sufficient Savior… How do we know this? Well look at the rest of our text…

In the rest of verse 10 it says, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” And then in verse 12 it says, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Did you catch all of that? Jesus poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors… He was nailed to our cross and hung there in our place beside two thieves… And there He poured Himself out to the death as God poured out His wrath until it was satisfied… That’s when Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” But He didn’t cry out, “I am finished…” It is finished, not Jesus… Jesus’s days are prolonged, He shall see His offspring, the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand… God’s Word says, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong…” Do you see what He’s saying there? That’s the language of a victor, of a conquering hero enjoying the spoils of His victory…

Verse 12 says He died with the transgressors, but it follows that with the word “yet”… Yet He bore the sin of many… In other words, what happened at the cross was what theologians call penal substitutionary atonement: the guiltless dies to save the guilty… In our place condemned He hung on our cross taking the wrath due us until it was completely satisfied… And we know that it was indeed satisfied because it says after dying He’s now a victor, and He makes intercession for sinners… This is priestly language… The author of Hebrews refers to this when he says, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he (Jesus) holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25)…

So do you see? Do you see how we know that Jesus did indeed satisfy the wrath of God for all who will turn from their sin and trust in Him? Because He is alive! He’s a victor! He’s a conqueror! He was a suitable, successful sacrifice… Jesus wrote a check with His life and death… He signed that check by taking on God’s wrath on the cross… And we can see that the check cleared because on the Sunday after Good Friday Jesus got up from the grave! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!!! His blood was the payment and His life was the cost… And because He is the perfect God man there was sufficient funds in the bank to cover the check He wrote on the cross… He paid it all! As we sing, “Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me…” And we know He’s satisfied because Jesus is alive! We know His death was not in vain because death could not hold Him! The resurrection was God declaring to the world that Jesus did not die in vain and that He is indeed the Son of God, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and the conquering Lion of Judah! And now He always lives to make intercession for His people… As we read earlier, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34)… Jesus is alive!!!

Conclusion

Rising He justified, freely forever, all who will turn from their sin and trust in Him… Remember, verse 6 told us that all we like sheep have gone astray; every one of us has turned to His own way… In our flesh we have despised Jesus and esteemed Him not… That’s the great sin that is behind all of our sin… So to turn from our sin means that we turn from our way to God’s way… And God’s design for our lives is to delight in Jesus, not despise Him; and to die to ourselves and esteem Him… We owe Him our esteem… Again, to esteem is to regard highly or favorably, with proper respect and admiration… In other words, it’s to magnify, to glorify… That’s why we exist: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever; and Jesus is God… He proved Himself to be the true Son of God when He got up from the grave!!!

So how do we esteem Jesus? We trust that it is finished! That Jesus did everything necessary to save us from our sin, to save us from death, to save us from God and His righteous wrath… Peter elaborates on this in 1 Peter 2:24-25 saying, “[Jesus] 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. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” By His wounds we are healed… Healed from what? From the disease of sin, that’s what… Jesus’ death frees us from slavery to sin. His victory over sin gives us victory over sin… On the cross He purchased the redemption of all who will turn from their sin, trust Him, and follow Him… By His grace He gives those for whom He died eyes to see His beauty, so that we might see and know that He is the way, that He is better than anything this world could offer us or take away from us… And in that moment, we are healed… But, because He conquered the grave when He rose from the dead, we will be healed from sin and all of its effects, including death… We will have eternal resurrection life with Jesus… Because He lives so will we… If, we return to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls… If we esteem Him… Jesus has already paid it all… The check has cleared, for He is risen… What we must decide is whether we will go our own way, or His…

Our way is foolishness… Sin never makes good on its promises, but God always does… And I hope you’ve caught what God has been doing in His Word this morning, what He’s been doing in speaking of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and the promises attached to them… He’s been wooing you… Sinclair Ferguson points this out, saying, “When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to himself. We would almost think that God loved us more than he loves his Son! We cannot measure such love by any other standard. He is saying to us: I love you this much. The cross is the heart of the gospel. It makes the gospel good news: Christ died for us. He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat. He has borne our sins. God has done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that he love us.” And if we are persuaded of that, we will love Him. And if we love Him we will trust Him, we will follow Him, we will esteem Him… He is the risen Lord, and He deserves nothing less…