: Perhaps the greatest of all Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures / the Old Testament) concerning the advent of the Jewish Messiah is found in the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah. This section of the Prophets, also known as the “Suffering Servant,” has been long understood by the historical Rabbis of Judaism to speak of the Redeemer who will one day come to Zion.
The great (Rambam) Rabbi Moses Maimonides (was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher. He was born in Spain, but spent most of his life in Egypt) says
“What is the manner of Messiah’s advent….there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place’ (
). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc….in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will harken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.
Unfortunately, modern Rabbis of Judaism believe that the “Suffering Servant” of
refers perhaps to Israel, or to Isaiah himself, or even Moses or another of the Jewish prophets. But Isaiah is clear – he speaks of the Messiah, as many ancient rabbis concluded.
We who are of Christian faith understand, know and believe that Jesus had to die for the sins of humanity.
What was prophesied/promised Suffering Servant?
In much of modern media, Jesus is portrayed significantly different than Isaiah’s depiction of the Messiah. In our movies (and sometimes in our own minds), Jesus is shown in a sanitized, sappy Hallmark movie version. He is a Hippie prancing around the countryside with perfect hair and a winning smile. However, Isaiah
describes as quite contrary to that caricature of the Christ. He was not impressive, not majestic, and had “no appearance that we should desire Him.
The Savior we come to know as Jesus from Nazareth was the One whose life fulfills these verses. In
, he is
, and “was like
someone people turned away from
.” With not much to appreciate to eye, it seemed natural for the world to discard Him. For the Suffering Savior, dismissal would be the gut-level reaction of many. And yet, He presses on to deliver the gift of atonement.
The bulk of chapter 53 give us devastating detail after detail of what would happen to the savior. It describes it with the ancient poetic language that is delivered like deathblows.
Isaiah paints a picture of one who would suffer great anguish!
: The question though is, “
why did he have to suffer?”
The suffering is the “what” (and, for our good,) but the passage offers the “
” as well.
The Messiah does not appear in the flesh to simply give us a moral example or help us out by showing what sacrificial love looks like. Instead the “why” is so much greater.
The word “
” is an interesting one. In the Hebrew language, it means
Jesus arrives on Earth to suffer the punishment due to us for our rebellion so that we can be reconciled to our perfect God.
In all of this, there is a great mystery for us. In the passage, we find this phrase:
“Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.”
: It jars our souls to think that the Father is somehow gleeful to see the Son come under the crushing weight of wrath against sin. And we should be jarred by such a thought because He is not. The pleasure found in delivering suffering to the Savior is due to His great love for those being saved.
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