THE CRUSHING SACRIFICING OF THE SERVANT

Last time we looked at the second of five stanzas in this titanic passage. Now just look at the second stanza beginning at Isaiah 53:4 for three powerful, loaded verses. It’s the central stanza, the heart of the whole matter. Pay attention to the prophet!  If you ever hear anything, hear this!

He foretold long centuries ago ..

Isa 53:4  SURELY he took up our pain [or sickness] and bore our suffering [or pains]

The First century Gospel writer, Matthew, was familiar with this prophetic passage and saw this literally fulfilled in the healing work of Jesus of Nazareth :

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.  This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”(Mat 8)

The writer of Matthew knew there was a connection between salvation from sin and healing from sickness. Both have a common root cause, disconnection from the life, the face, the presence of God. With his seemingly timeless foresight, the prophet sees from afar the suffering servant of Israel taking up our pain and suffering and bearing these in place of a whole people universal. Us.

Matthew will go on to tell the story speaking of a Servant of God that, he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Gospel of Matthew 16)

Isa 53:4b  Yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

Ha. The human condition. Were you there too, when they crucified him?  Were you there thinking God is punishing him, taunting him in his terrible humiliation? (Yes, I was. Everyman was.) Surely we think he deserved it, confirmed when we hear that desolate cry from his lips, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We assumed it was deserved. Just. How dare a man make such claims. O deadly assumption!

Isa 53:5   But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;

We were dead wrong. This was all about us. Our wrong-doing. Our rebellion. Our disobedience. Our refusal to embrace love and the Lover and the altogether Lovely. Our determination to have anyone but this Man of light and love and life. Our wilfulness to follow anyone, even the Destroyer, the murderer, rather than the Lord and Giver of Life. Crushed for us.

That furious one who excelled in vain efforts to spoil the Servant’s offering, that one who oppressed, persecuted Him and his followers,  determined to kill this spurious superstition, later had to write : He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Paul in his Letter to the Romans 4:25).

Another, that thrice-denier, that faithless, terrified ‘leader’, who saw all this and ran away, later with the memory of that moment, pivotal for all history, ground into his mind, commented …

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed. For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (First Letter of Peter 2:23-25)

And then that Hebrew believer who wrote to fellow Hebrews with deep gratitude : Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.( Hebrews 9:28)

Isa 53:5b   the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

And now we can see it, what was so obscured, so hidden for long ages! That torment, that humiliation, that utterly unrighteous act, that endured suffering, has brought us peace. Shalom. Well-being, wholeness, healing, salvation, freedom, joy, gladness, faith, hope and love, release from the dominion of iniquity, transportation form the dark kingdom into the kingdom of light, the joyous, comfortable, generous, perfect Kingdom of God. all undeserved. That makes it all the more delicious. Satisfying.

Isa 53:6   We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 Here’s Peter again, always reminding the reader : “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:24-25)

We all, sinners by nature, as a race, evaluated collectively, doing what comes naturally. Gone awfully astray. By our own awful choice, each one turning away from life to death, our own way. Suicide.

So much so that God takes the initiative, God reconciling the world unto himself through Christ as the once arch-persecutor says in 2 Cor 5:19. Think about it: God actually laid upon him the filthiness, the humiliation, the shame, the iniquity of all of us. 

This creative, almighty, invisible, surprising, unfathomable, only wise God! Such mercy, compassion. Such value of us must leave us awestruck. 

Just accept it, receive it. That’s all. Done for us. Finished. Once for all. Nothing for us to do. Just believe. Adore. Respond.

And now. Onwards! To live for righteousness!

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