What motivates one to sacrifice their life for another? Only one thing: Love. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Perfect love, sacrificial love, can only come from God. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
The prophet Isaiah sets the stage for the entrance of Jesus onto the world stage as a servant. He begins to let us know that God is sending someone special to help Israel accomplish their task of bringing the nations to the Lord. "Here is my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him and I will bring justice to the nations." (Isaiah 42:1)
Chapter 49 of Isaiah continues to build the description of the Servant. "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6) By the time we get to Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53 we have a full-blown description of the Suffering Servant and ultimately His glory. Read these lines from the NLT to get the full impact of what Christ did for us:
"See my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about.
Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave. But it was the Lord's good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord's good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels."
Isaiah is so specific in his description of the Suffering Servant. The details of it are confirmed over and over again in the New Testament as Jesus is identified as the Messiah. This chapter alone, eliminated from the daily reading of the Jews, is responsible for bringing many of them into the fold of our Lord when they became aware of it. This chapter lets us know that our God is so personal that He made provision to remove the barrier that separates us from Him. Jesus came to die a sacrificial death to atone for our sins. Isaiah 61 goes on to explain what the full blessing of atonement will look like.
Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah 53: He was a righteous and humble man who suffered innocently, willing to suffer rejection. He suffered silently--not retaliating; He willingly suffered an agonizing death that should have been ours so that we can live with Him in eternity when we have faith in Him and what He has done. He knew the final outcome--He rose from the dead! One day He will reign as king of Israel in Jerusalem. There will be an end to wars and peace will fill the earth. God has the ultimate victory over all of His enemies. The One who came to suffer, serve and save is worthy of all praise!
Joan E. Mathias