In 1947, some Bedouin shepherds were exploring, and they discovered a group of scrolls that today are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among these scrolls was one of special significance, although all the scrolls were important finds. There were a large quantity of scrolls that were found in the Dead Sea area, but one of special importance is called the Great Isaiah Scroll. The Great Isaiah Scroll is of great length. Using carbon-14 dating, it has been determined that its date lies somewhere between 312 B.C. and 107 B.C. The most common date is probably somewhere between 150 to 100 B.C.
Great Isaiah Scroll
The reason that I wanted to mention the date of the Great Isaiah Scroll is that it predates Christ. The Great Isaiah Scroll was written before the time of Christ, anywhere from 325 to a hundred years before Christ was born. This is really significant because the book of Isaiah has seventy-three prophecies in it. In fact, the New Testament refers to the book of Isaiah forty-seven times. Most of them are in the gospels and refer to Christ. Did you know that the book of Isaiah refers to Christ’s birth? It refers to the Messiah’s life, His incarnation and ministry. It speaks of the Messiah’s baptism and death and refers to the Messiah’s resurrection. It reveals that He is Savior, priest, and king. Isaiah wrote of all that – prophecies about Christ. The book of Isaiah is really important. Do you realize why the Great Isaiah Scroll is so important? Because it was written long before Christ was born. It was written 100 to 325 years prior to His birth. In fact, the Septuagint, often called the LXX, also includes the book of Isaiah. We believe it was written roughly 270 B.C. This means that we have two separate documents, both of them containing the book of Isaiah with prophecies that refer to Christ.
Do you realize what it meant when Christ was born and fulfilled the prophecies in Isaiah? We have a marker in the past that tells us how to know the Messiah when he comes. When the Messiah arrived and fulfilled those prophecies, that tells us who the Messiah is; it tells you and me that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
My Servant – The Righteous One
One of the most significant chapters in the book of Isaiah is chapter 53, and that is our study. We begin with Isaiah 52:13 which says,
Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
Isaiah 52:13 (NASB)
“High and lifted up” refers to Christ. The part I want you to look at is, “Behold, my servant will prosper.” When it says “prosper,” it does not mean financial success or prosperity. When it says “prosper,” another word we could use is simply “success.” So we could reread the verse as “My Servant will be successful.” In other words, He is going to accomplish the purpose for which He came. You might ask, “Who is ‘My Servant’?” Well, the name “My Servant” appears in chapter 53 and verse 11. It reads,
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
Isaiah 53:11 (NASB)
Who is “My Servant”? The answer is the Righteous One. Who is the Righteous One? If we turn to Isaiah 24:15-16 we learn that the righteous one is God Himself. Isaiah chapters 52 and 53 tells us that My Servant is God. He is the Righteous One. We will find that the last part of chapter 52 continues into 53. It is all one section, even though there is a chapter break at Isaiah 52:15. The My Servant is the Righteous One. He is deity. Therefore, “Behold My Servant” could be rewritten as “The Righteous One will be successful. And He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.” The picture is that the servant is like a king, high and lifted up, exalted.
In Ephesians 1:20-23, we read the following.
Which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:20-23 (NASB)
It is just a glorious description of Christ reigning as king. This helps us understand that Isaiah 52:13 has Him in view as a king, reigning and ruling—not only in the millennial kingdom that is coming to earth, but continuing on for all eternity in Heaven. Verse 14 then says,
Just as many were astonished at you. Isaiah 52:14a (NASB)
They were surprised; this was unexpected. They were caught off guard. The rest of the verse says,
So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. Isaiah 52:14b (NASB)
The word for “marred” means disfigured and is a picture of Christ’s death. We will come back to Isaiah 52:15 shortly.
Who Has Believed Our Message
Now, if we look at Isaiah 53:1 we discover that it continues from Isaiah 52:14. Isaiah 53:1 is an explanation of verse 14 and the explanation continues into the rest of chapter 53. So let us read verse 1. It says,
And who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Isaiah 53:1 (NASB)
The first part of this verse is,
And who has believed our message? Isaiah 53:1a (NASB)
Does that sound familiar? It is a quote from the New Testament. John 12:31 quotes this verse. Verse 31 describes events right after Jesus’ triumphal entry. Jesus had returned to Jerusalem, and some Greeks were already asking some questions and wanting to see Christ. Some interesting events have happened, and Jesus is talking to a crowd. In verse 31 Jesus is speaking,
Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. John 12:31 (NASB)
Christ declares that He is going to cast out the ruler of the world who is Satan. Jesus states that He is about to cast him out. Verse 32 adds some new information,
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. John 12:32-33 (NASB)
That is, He is referring to dying on a cross. The people respond in verse 34,
The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever . . . John 12:34a (NASB)
Isn’t that interesting? The crowd answered, “Yes, what we have heard from the law is that the Messiah is going to live forever. He is going to remain forever.” They apparently understood what Jesus was talking about. He is talking about being lifted up. He is talking about dying on a cross. The crowd responded.
. . . and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” John 12:34b (NASB)
But the people are somewhat clueless about what Jesus is really saying. Verse 35 adds,
So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. John 12:35a (NASB)
He is speaking of Himself when He says “the light.”
Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light. John 12:35b-36 (NASB)
I was thinking about the comment Jesus made in verse 36. He says “While you have the light, believe in the light.” If you do not believe in the light, you are not going to become sons of light. Jesus says the only way that we become a son of light is by believing in the light. I find it interesting what He did not say. Jesus did not say that we must believe in the light and then keep doing good works. Jesus said we must believe in the light, and then we become sons of light. What happens if we become a son of light? Then we are transformed.
Before that, we are walking in darkness. Jesus is saying that the way we get out of darkness and into the light is to believe in the light. When that happens, a transformation occurs. Jesus is terrific in the gospel of John because we keep hearing these statements contrasting light and darkness, and we hear about being born again. Jesus is always using these same illustrations. Here the illustration is that if we believe in the light, then we become a son of light. There is a transformation from darkness to light. Let us keep reading.
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” John 12:36-38 (NASB)
Many of Isaiah’s prophecies are quoted in the New Testament. Verse 39 quotes one of them,
. . . Isaiah the Prophet in which he spoke, Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.
Here Christ, the light of the world steps into the darkness and we are told they did not believe Him. In the first chapter of John, the disciple tells us that the world did not understand and does not comprehend. The world did not accept, but rejected Jesus Christ, the light, but everybody did not. In fact, if you were to read more verses, they say there were some who believed but because they feared the Jewish religious leaders, they were secret Christians. They did not want to tell anyone of their faith in Christ. They did not want it known that they were believers. So Isaiah 53:1 says,
Who has believed our report?
The truth is a lot of people rejected Christ when He came.
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
The phrase “arm of the Lord” implies power. Great power was revealed in the coming of Christ. There was the power of the incarnation, God taking on human form. The Holy Spirit came in power causing the birth of Christ. There was power during Jesus’ ministry. There was power at His death and at His resurrection. The arm of the Lord in verse one refers to power.
Childhood of Christ
Next, Isaiah 53:2 speaks of Jesus’ youth,
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground. He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, or appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Isaiah 53:2 (NASB)
Verse 2 is a prophecy about Christ’s birth and childhood. It is interesting the way this verse begins. It says, “For He grew up before Him.” It is as though Heaven was and is watching. I was reminded of Luke. Remember in Luke 2 that Christ was born, and there were shepherds out in the field when angels came and announced the birth? That tells us the angels knew about the birth of Christ. In Luke 1, the announcement of Jesus’ birth to Mary by the angel Gabriel reveals the angel knew. This reveals that Heaven knew what was going on. Heaven was watching.
The scripture says, “He grew up before Him.” Before who? Jesus grew up before God the Father. It is the idea that God the Father was watching Christ. The angels were also watching. They were watching Him grow up, watching Him in human flesh grow up into a human adult. This is just a fabulous description of what happened. Romans 8:3 tells us that He was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was God in human flesh; He looked like us. And that is what the end of Isaiah 53:2 says,
. . . Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Isaiah 53:2b (NASB)
He had no stately form or appearance. He did not look like a leader, He did not look like someone who would accomplish anything really great. God brought Christ into the world. He then grew up as a child and became an adult. The idea of “stately form” means that He did not have a commanding appearance. He did not look handsome. If anyone, as you are reading this, feels that you are not very handsome or attractive, remember that is how Christ looked.
I would have thought that the Messiah would have looked really handsome. I would have thought that He would have looked like a leader. But He did not. He took a humble position. There was a humility about Him.
Rejection of Christ
Verse 3 is about the rejection of Christ.
And He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows . . . Isaiah 53:2a (NASB)
The word for “sorrows” actually means pains.
. . . And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:2b (NASB)
The message is people did not think very much of Him. They did not think that He was very important. They did not esteem Him; in fact, they despised Him and looked down on Him. In Mark 3:1-4, Jesus was in front of the temple and there was a man who had a withered hand. Jesus called the man with the withered hand to step forward. All the religious leaders were watching. Jesus asked, “Is it right to heal on the Sabbath Day?” Jesus was grieved. He was angry because of the hardness of their heart. Notice what this verse says. It says, He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was grieved at the hardness of their hearts and their sins. This is really incredible. He was despised and He was rejected by the people, and yet at the same time He is a man who knows about pain, and grief. Not only did He suffer physically, but He suffered emotionally.
I have gone through some moments where I was in grief internally. I was thinking about this last night, and thinking about this verse. It says “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and all of a sudden I realized if we have grief, that could be perfectly proper. I am sure there is grief that is wrong. Jesus was sinless and He experienced grief. He was a sinless man who grieved. He grieved over the hardness of their hearts. Think about what Jesus went through here on earth. He was rejected by people. He experienced pain. He experienced grief. Yet He died on a cross for us.
Death of Christ
Verse 4 is a picture of His death. We have read about His birth, His childhood, and His ministry. Verse 4 is about His death. It says,
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:2 (NASB)
The last part of the verse is very significant because it says that the people there were watching, and were seeing what was happening to Christ. They thought this was God’s judgment on Him, that God had done this to Him. Yes, it is true that God had done that to Him. But their conclusion was wrong. They thought His death was justified. But the first part of this verse is very important. It says,
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried.
Do you know that this phrase is quoted twice in the New Testament? One time in the Gospels and another time in 1 Peter. Matthew 8:14-16 is about healing and it says,
When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. Matthew 8:14-16
How many people were healed by Jesus? Everyone who was sick. This was a phenomenal healing event. If you were ill or had a physical disability, and you came to Jesus on this occasion, He healed you. Verse 17 adds,
This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” Matthew 8:17
When Isaiah 53:4 used the word “griefs,” it was speaking of “sicknesses.” Here the Hebrew word, aken, is translated as infirmities, or “He carried away our diseases.” The idea is that the atonement, enabled healing. In theology, we refer to this as “the already but not yet.” What we mean by “already but not yet” is that it is a partial fulfillment. But the total fulfillment is yet to come in the future. What we are really saying is that the total fulfillment of healing comes in the millennial kingdom and in Heaven itself where there is no disease, no sickness — nothing wrong at all. It all happens because of what Jesus did on the cross. You might be thinking this referred to the forgiveness of sin. In 1 Peter 2:21-25 we read:
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 (NASB)
When Isaiah 53:4 tells us that,
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried…
It is referring to the fact that He died for our sins. Because He did that, He was also able, as a side benefit to heal us as well. Isaiah 53:5 is a prophesy of the crucifixion. It says,
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities . . . Isaiah 53:5 (NASB)
The implication is He died.
. . . The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (NASB)
I do not think that is the best translation here in the New American Standard. It really should not be “the chastising of our wellbeing,” but “because of His chastening we have peace.” Some of your Bibles will translate it as “because of chastising, we have peace” and that is the better understanding. Because He died on the cross, we can have peace. Romans 5:1 says we can have peace with God, and peace with God comes when we have our sins forgiven. Then we are told, “and by His scourging we are healed.”
There are two very important words I want you to notice in verse 5. It speaks of “our transgressions” and then “our iniquities.” We need to understand the difference. The Hebrew word that is translated here as “transgressions” really means rebellion. It means that you know better, but you did it anyway. Can I ask you, have you ever known that something you were going to do was wrong but you did it anyway? Have you ever been tempted to do something, and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit said, “Do not do that,” and you did it anyway? That is rebellion.
The next word, “iniquities” means sins, and refers to unintentional sins. This verse says that when Christ died on the cross, He died to forgive you of your rebellious acts as well as the sins you did not know about. It means total forgiveness for every sin. He died for all of your sins, for the ones that you knew that you should not commit, and then the ones that you did not know you had committed. Jesus died for all of them. It is wonderful to read in this verse that He died for the rebellious ones as well as the unintentional ones. The next passage is verse 6,
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way . . . Isaiah 53:6 (NASB)
One of the members of our church once lived on a farm and raised sheep. We were talking about the Good Shepherd and how we are all like sheep and go astray. He said that sheep just wander off and do their own thing. This verse says all of us are like sheep who have gone astray. Each of us have turned our own way. I could not help but think of the book of Judges where it says that everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
Christ, Our Sacrifice
The end of verse 6 teaches us that our sins fell on Christ while He was on the cross.
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53:6 (NASB)
Whether it was an intentional or unintentional act, whether you were straying or not, God the Father caused all our sin to fall on Him. This was the Father’s plan. Remember verse 1 says,
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? Isaiah 53:1b (NASB)
It was God the Father’s plan. He caused it all to happen.
Now verse 7:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth
Isaiah 53:7 (NASB)
This reminds us of the trial before the Sanhedrin and Herod where Jesus did not speak a word. “So He did not open His mouth.”
Verse 8 speaks of Christ’s death and the benefit of His death.
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
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
Isaiah 53:8 (NASB)
When it says “stroke was due,” I could not help but think of Romans 6:23 where it says,
For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23 (NASB)
That was the stroke that was due. Death is what a man and woman deserves because of their sins. Verse 9 continues,
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Isaiah 53:9 (NASB)
There were two men who buried Him: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. He was buried in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, who had already purchased and prepared his future tomb. Verse 9 was literally fulfilled. All these verses have been fulfilled by Christ and in Him alone.
Isaiah 53:9 also states that Christ had not done any violence. That is, Christ was sinless. Scripture tells us that Pilate announced that he found no fault in Him. Pilate said, “There is no fault in this man,” and then tried to release Him. “Nor was there any deceit in His mouth,” reinforces the truth that Christ was sinless.
God the Father’s Plan
Verse 10 is an important verse.
But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering…
Isaiah 53:10a (NASB)
We learn that God the Father had planned Christ’s death. We are also told that Christ was a guilt offering. The first five chapters of Leviticus describe the burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, etc. The sin offering was made for unintentional sins. The guilt offering was offered for sins of rebellion. This prophetic passage says that Jesus was a guilt offering. Now there are some who want to teach that the only thing that is being described here is physical healing. But Jesus was our guilt offering. Have you ever wondered why God instituted sacrifices in the Old Testament? I think one reason was to help us understand Jesus’ death on the cross. His blood sacrifice was for sin. Scripture says that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood, that is, death. Jesus’ blood had to be shed. He had to die. He was literally our guilt offering.
It is important to realize that Isaiah 53:10 does not prophetically state that Jesus was a burnt offering. His death is not described as a sin offering. It is not described as any other kind of offering. His death is described as a guilt offering because we are guilty.
He will see His offspring. Isaiah 53:10b (NASB)
I believe the statement, “And He will see His offspring,” is referring to saints or to believers. It is referring to the body of Christ.
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
Isaiah 53:10c (NASB)
When we are told, “And He will prolong His days” it can only mean that Jesus Christ prolonged His days by His resurrection. Verse 11 focuses on Christ’s sufferings near death.
As a result of the anguish of His soul . . . Isaiah 53:11a (NASB)
Do you remember that when Jesus was on the cross, because of the weight of the sin that was upon Him said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). That was clearly an expression of an anguished soul.
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 53:11b (NASB)
To justify means to judicially declare someone to be righteous or sinless. It is like a judge sitting at a bench. God the Father declares us to be without sin because Christ bore our iniquities on the cross.
Do you see how many times references are made to our sins through this chapter by the terms iniquities and transgressions? God the Father is speaking again in verse 12.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong . . . Isaiah 53:12a (NASB)
I believe this is referring to all of the benefits that would come as a result of His dying on the cross. Ephesians chapter 1 talks about all the manifold blessings that are enabled because of Christ. I believe that is what is referred to in first part of this verse. Next, we are told,
Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors . . . Isaiah 53:12b (NASB)
The “transgressors” would be the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus, one on the left and the other on His right.
… Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12c (NASB)
At the end of the verse Christians are in view when it says, “bore the sins of many.” But the last phrase in the Hebrew is not properly translated in our English Bibles. When it says “interceded” the Hebrew verb is in the imperfect tense. It means that He is interceding. It is a picture of Christ defending us as our great high priest. 1 John 2:1-2 describes how He is our advocate and appeases the Father. He satisfied the Father’s wrath when He died on the cross.
Now we will return to Isaiah 52:14. It says,
Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men. Isaiah 52:14 (NASB)
Do you see that Chapter 53 elaborates in detail on what verse 14 is talking about? The people were astonished at Christ. He did not look like a leader. He died on a cross. In fact, the crowd thought that God had judged Him.
Now notice verse 15 says He sprinkled many nations.
And thus He will sprinkle many nations. Isaiah 52:15a (NASB)
When the priests offered sacrifices, they sprinkled the blood of the animals on the altar. “Sprinkle” is in the imperfect tense. Therefore, in verse 14 Jesus is our Savior. Then in the first part of verse 15 He is our high priest. If we continue reading verse 15, the verse says,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand.
Isaiah 52:15b (NASB)
The message is, the people had heard, they had seen but they had not understood. But at some future date we are told that kings, who had not understood in the past and so they were not expecting Him, will be astonished. It is going to be incredible when Jesus arrives and reigns as King. This entire section is about Jesus. He is our God, Savior, High Priest, and king. The only way He can reign as king in the future is if He is alive. Isaiah’s prophesy reveals He was resurrected and returned to life.
The message today is that we serve a risen Savior who is our guilt offering. We need a Savior because we are all guilty. Every one of us is guilty of sin. We are rebellious and we commit sins at times without knowing we are sinning and then sometimes intentionally. What is beautiful is that He made it possible for us to be judicially declared sinless. It is incredible to understand all that Jesus did for us.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is a prophecy that occurred seven hundred years before Christ ever arrived. The oldest document that we have that authenticates the prophecy is dated 100-325 years before Christ. It is incredible to think about what Jesus did for us. Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. That is why we can know that He is the Messiah, He is the Savior, He is the great high priest, and He is the coming King. Today the world does not understand, but there is coming a day when every knee will bow before King Jesus!