“The teaching of the prophets, in those places where they speak of Christ, is nothing but the true, pure, and proper gospel. Thus when Isaiah in chapter 53 says how Christ would die for us and bear our sins, he has written the pure gospel.” – Martin Luther
Isaiah is allowed to preview Jesus’ sufferings and death. He states it as an accomplished fact. Isaiah writes in the past tense about something that will happen 700 years later. You can also read the historical description in Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, and John 18-19. But Isaiah says something that the Gospels don’t say. Isaiah says “for us.” This is the Gospel! This is a Gospel sermon. Isaiah points to Christ crucified, and then he points to you. Christ crucified… for you!
READ: v. 1-3 from your Bible
The truth is, we don’t look very good. Jesus’ being “despised and rejected” and His “sorrows” are all laid at our door. “Mine, mine was the transgression,” we sing in Lent. Our sins did this to Him. But the “for us” comes in how He volunteered Himself to be “acquainted with grief.”
Jesus is rejected by men so you will not be rejected by the Father; the rejection and scorn you experience is shared by Him. He makes your sorrows His sorrows and your griefs His griefs. These verses teach Jesus’ solidarity with you in all the woe you experience in this sinful valley of sorrows. He shares your misery that you might share His glory!
READ: v. 4-6 from your Bible
Isaiah describes what happened to Jesus – “He was wounded… He was bruised… His stripes…” This leads us to have sympathy for Jesus. But it is the other way around. He has sympathy for us!
Verse 4 says, Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, or as St. Matthew says in his Gospel: He has taken our infirmities/pains and borne our sicknesses (8:17). If you have sins, griefs, or sorrows or if you have physical, mental, or emotional weakness, pain, or sickness, Jesus not only feels for you, but He has felt it with you and for you. He carried it. The Lutheran hymn says: “O what precious balm and healing, Jesus, in Thy wounds I find! Every hour that I am feeling pains of body and of mind” (ELH #293).
The most important words in these verses are the “for us” phrases: He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him … the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. This is the Gospel. Jesus paid for all the guilt of all of your sins.
READ: v. 7-9 from your Bible
The Father knows “the wrath and stripes are hard to bear” (ELH #331:2) and conveys this loving concern for His Son. He encourages Him by making promises about what Christ will do. He will “open blind eyes, bring out prisoners from the prison,” etc. These are promises that Christ would free people from the prison of the Law.
In these verses, it is good to notice the passive verbs, what was done to Jesus: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted… He was led as a lamb… He was taken… He was cut off.” This is Jesus’ passive obedience, what was done to Him for our salvation.
But it is also good to remember that Jesus said, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). So this is also Jesus’ active obedience: what He did to keep the commandments perfectly for us. He refrained from disobedience. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth (53:7).
This comforts you with the forgiveness of your sins. The words you regret saying – the words of sinful anger, the hasty words of judgment, the blasphemous words of unbelief and doubt – they are forgiven by Jesus’ perfect control of His words. The impatience with which you act out is forgiven by Jesus’ willingness to be led as a lamb to His death. In His holiness and innocence, you are forgiven of all your sins!
READ: v. 10-12 from your Bible
The words “My righteous Servant shall justify many” include not only Jesus’ death but also His resurrection. He was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). God the Father approved of Jesus’ innocent suffering and death and raised Him from the dead as proof that Jesus’ death completely paid for the sins of everyone in the world – including you.
On my heart imprint Thine image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares and pleasures
Have no power Thee to efface.
This the superscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation.
Reverend Jerry Gernander
Bethany Lutheran Church