Jesus’ death & Isaiah 53
There are many passages in the Old Testament that help us understand whatÂ Jesus was on about and why he died, but none is clearer than the 53rd chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
Isaiah was a prophet who lived around 1,000 years before Jesus. He received many visions and messages from God, some of which were fulfilled in his own lifetime, some which point to the end of the world, and some that point to the promised Messiah, Jesus.
The vision recorded in Isaiah 53 is so strikingly accurate to the suffering and death of Jesus is it hard to ignore it. Definitely the New Testament writers and even Jesus saw the connection.
Not only are the parallels in Isaiah 53 interesting, they areÂ also very helpful to explain the purpose of Jesus’ death. There is a fairly recent philosophical movement inÂ some circles to argue againstÂ the idea that Jesus died as a substitute for sinners. This theological idea – known as “Substitutionary Atonement” – is I believe at the very heart of the Christian gospel and is supported not only throughout the New Testament epistles, but also the gospels as well.
There are some though that argue that this concept was made up many years after Jesus by the apostle Paul and is not found at all in the teaching of Jesus. I met a minister in the States years ago who told me that the idea that Jesus took our place on the cross and died on our behalf was nowhere to be found in the gospels. He challenged me to think of one place where it could be found, and at the time, I was nervous and didn’t know the bible as well as I do now, so I went blank.
If I had my time again, I would have pointed this minister to Isaiah 53 and all the places in the New Testament that say that Jesus’ death was a fulfilment of it. If you are interested in looking up some of those references you can check out: Luke 22:37,Â 1 Peter 2:21-25,Â Acts 8:26-40Â and Romans 10:16.
If you want to understand the message of Christianity, if you want to get your head around the Good FridayÂ and the purpose behind Jesus’ death, I could point you to many places in the New Testament, but I’d say you could read the Old TestamentÂ prophecy found in Isaiah 53 and that would be sufficient.
I will not write a big explanation of this passage. Rather, I will simply post it below for you to read yourself and reflect on how it helps you understand Jesus’ death:
Who has believed our message
Â Â Â Â and to whom has the armÂ of theÂ LordÂ been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
Â Â Â Â and like a rootÂ out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
Â Â Â Â nothing in his appearanceÂ that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
Â Â Â Â a man of suffering,Â and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hideÂ their faces
Â Â Â Â he was despised,Â and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
Â Â Â Â and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
Â Â Â Â stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was piercedÂ for our transgressions,
Â Â Â Â he was crushedÂ for our iniquities;
the punishmentÂ that brought us peaceÂ was on him,
Â Â Â Â and by his woundsÂ we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
Â Â Â Â each of us has turned to our own way;
and theÂ LordÂ has laid on him
Â Â Â Â the iniquityÂ of us all.
He was oppressedÂ and afflicted,
Â Â Â Â yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lambÂ to the slaughter,
Â Â Â Â and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
Â Â Â Â so he did not open his mouth.
By oppressionÂ and judgmentÂ he was taken away.
Â Â Â Â Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
Â Â Â Â for the transgressionÂ of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
Â Â Â Â and with the richÂ in his death,
though he had done no violence,
Â Â Â Â nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was theÂ Lordâ€™s willÂ to crushÂ him and cause him to suffer,
Â Â Â Â and though theÂ LordÂ makesÂ his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspringÂ and prolong his days,
Â Â Â Â and the will of theÂ LordÂ will prosperÂ in his hand.
After he has suffered,
Â Â Â Â he will see the lightÂ of lifeÂ and be satisfied;
by his knowledgeÂ my righteous servantÂ will justifyÂ many,
Â Â Â Â and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
Â Â Â Â and he will divide the spoilsÂ with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
Â Â Â Â and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he boreÂ the sin of many,
Â Â Â Â and made intercessionÂ for the transgressors.
May you reflect on this passage this Easter and know that when it says “he bore the sins of many” that not only is the “he” referring to Jesus, but that you may be included in the “many”.
That is the offer of the gospel and the message of Easter.
If you’d like some reflection questions, read through Isaiah 53 again and think about the following:
- What are the parallels in this prophecy to the suffering and death of Jesus?
- What does this teach me about WHY Jesus died?
- What is God’s part in all of this?
- What does this prophecyÂ teach me about the sort of people Jesus died for?
- Do I think of myself in the terms described in this prophecy?
- If Jesus died for me, how should I respond to his death?
- Do IÂ think this prophecyÂ gives any hintÂ about the resurrection?
Write your answers, reflections or further questions in the comments below…