Monday, November 29, 2010

The Rejection of Jesus

Part 1 of a Born to Die


This week I caught a few minutes of Oprah’s Favorite Things episode. You have probably seen one of these episodes. Oprah reveals all of her favorite things and gives them for free to ecstatic audience members. This year’s list of Favorite Things included a 7-day cruise, a 52-inch 3D television, and a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Obviously, these are very nice things and it’s always nice to get free stuff, but isn’t it true that these things can only bring temporary joy? As I watched the excitement of the studio audience, I thought of the indifference many people show toward the message of Jesus Christ. If we get excited about anything, we should get excited that Jesus came to earth to give us lasting joy. He was born to die for our salvation.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the fourth and final Servant Song in the book of Isaiah. Who is the suffering servant in this passage? (Judaism believes that Israel is the servant.)

The suffering servant is Jesus Christ.

  • “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  • “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what was written about me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37). The book of Isaiah was written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus.
  • “Now the passage of the Scripture that [the Ethiopian eunuch] was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth?’ And the eunuch said to Philip, ‘About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:32-35).
  • “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).
  • “Isaiah said these things because he saw [Jesus'] glory and spoke of him” (John 12:41; see also vv. 36b-40). Isaiah 53:1 is quoted in verse 38.


The suffering servant is shocking in two ways:
  • His exaltation is shocking. Behold, my servant shall act wisely [prosper]; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted (52:13). In three other verses in Isaiah, God is described as being “high and lifted up”: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). “‘Now I will arise,’ says the Lord, ‘now I will lift myself up’” (33:10). “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” (57:15). Conclusion: the suffering servant (Jesus) is God (“high and lifted up”) who became a man (John 1:1, 14).
  • His disfigurement is shocking. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle [startle] many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand (52:14-15). Philippians 2:5-11 declares that Jesus humbled Himself by becoming a servant and was willing to die for us on a cross. But after His humiliation, He was exalted, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.


Isaiah 52:10 declares, “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The “arm of the LORD” is God’s power in action (50:2; 51:5, 9). Israel failed to recognize the “arm of the LORD” when it was revealed to them. They didn’t believe that salvation could be accomplished by the suffering servant.
  • He was unexpected. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (53:1). Israel was expecting a glorious king or a mighty warrior, not a suffering servant. This is probably why the people of Bethlehem were amazed at the shepherd's news of the Messiah's humble birth. They were expecting something more. “And all who heard [the shepherd’s news] wondered [were amazed, astonished] at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 2:19).
  • He was unimpressive. For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him (53:2). Jesus was an ordinary looking man. The people of his hometown thought it was crazy when He claimed to have been sent to them from heaven. “[The people of Nazareth] said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven”?’”
  • He was unwanted. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (53:3). Jesus was dismissed as nothing special.
There are two great contrasts in this passage: (1) the contrast between the Servant’s suffering and His exaltation and (2) the contrast between people’s perception of the Servant and His true identity.


In this first part of this Servant Song, we are shocked at the depths to which the Savior falls. But in the end, we will be overcome with gratitude that His sufferings were for us (vv. 4-6).

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Think about what Jesus gave up when He came to earth. What are you willing to give up for God and others?

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