Now remember, these are written 700 years before the Messiah comes–700 years before Jesus, Isaiah is giving us prophecy. They are not vague prophecies about Him; they are very specific, particularly in chapter 53.
But when we get to chapter 50, the details are more complete and more astonishing than in those earlier prophecies. As we come into chapter 52, verse 13, through 53, verse 12, we begin to focus on the coming Messiah in the kind of precision that can only be known to God, 700 years before the reality.
To become a Christian, one must believe in the vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on our behalf on the cross. But some day the whole nation of Israel will believe. Zechariah tells us that there will be two-thirds of the nation purged in unbelief, judged by God, and a remaining one-third of Israel will have a national conversion by a sovereign act of God if we take the current number of about fifteen million Jews in the world–five million Jews in one moment of time will come to faith in Jesus Christ under the sovereign power of God.
And by the way, no matter what’s going on in the world scene, no matter how much nuclear power the Middle East generates, no matter how many bombs the Iranians can devise and how many they can aim at Israel, they will not destroy Israel; they will not destroy Israel because God has a future salvation for Israel written in detail in the Scripture. Their salvation is promised in Jeremiah 31; it is promised in Ezekiel 36, as we have seen; it is promised in Zechariah 12 and 13; and it is promised right here in Isaiah 53 as to the very words of their confession. And Paul reiterates that in Romans and says, “So all Israel will be saved.”
The Judas Sheep
At the end of chapter 53, He will receive a portion with the great, divide the booty with the strong. They had that view of their Messiah as an exalted ruler and king, the great King, the King of all kings. But now they find out that before He ever is installed as a king, He’s going to be slaughtered. Messiah slaughtered? Like a lamb. If you’ve had any experience with that, you know that when sheep go to be slaughtered, they go quietly.
Interestingly enough, I had this experience down in New Zealand and Australia. There’s one sheep called the Judas sheep. That’s the name of that sheep who leads all of them to slaughter. And they all follow the Judas sheep through a certain corridor of wood or metal to their death, and it is an utterly silent scene–totally silent as they go to have their throats slit one by one by one. They’re as silent in slaughter as they are in being sheared, and I have sat for hours and watched the amazing shearing of sheep and the silence of those sheep. The picture here is of the Messiah being slaughtered and being as silent as a sheep is silent. That’s the imagery. The reality is that the Messiah will be led to slaughter. The analogy is, like a sheep, He will be silent in that slaughter.
Christ is Silent
…And the chief emphasis in verses 7 through 9 is silence, or, if you will, submission, willingness, obedience.
Here is the suffering Servant of Jehovah, suffering unto death willingly, voluntarily. This is where He lives out “not My will but Yours be done,” as He prayed in the garden. The mouth, you might say, of the Messiah is featured.
In verse 7, He doesn’t open His mouth; twice it says that. And in verse 9 there’s no deceit in His mouth. He is silent in His trial; that’s verse 7. He is silent in His death; that’s verse 8. And He is silent in His burial; and that’s verse 9. Here again in the future, Israel will look back and realize that His silence was a willingness to be killed, as verse 8 says, for the transgression of My people–My people to whom the stroke was due.
They will have a totally different view of His trial and His death and His burial.
The Messiah says nothing in Isaiah 53–no speech at all. He is the silent, suffering Servant. Says nothing; does nothing, but let’s everything happen to Him. This is the voluntary, willing, vicarious, substitutionary death of the Servant.
When He was brought before the high priest, Matthew 26 tells us that He was silent.
In the next chapter, Matthew 27, He was taken before the chief priests and the scribes, elders, and He was silent.
In Mark 15 He was taken before Pilate and He was silent. In John 19 records the same thing, His silence before Pilate.
In Luke 23 He was taken before the Idumaean vassal king under Rome by the name of Herod, and again He was silent.
He was silent before the high priest, the Sanhedrin; He was silent before Pilate; He was silent before Herod. He never said a word in defense of Himself and His innocence.
The language of true salvation
I want to say something here in a broader sense. This chapter is so critical for anyone who wants to present a faithful gospel, because the language here is the language of the gospel.
And I want to show you what I mean. A lot of people want to talk about Christ, talk about believing in Jesus, talking about accepting Jesus as Savior, talking about letting Christ take over your life–that’s all true and fine.
But the language of true salvation is the language of Isaiah 53 when the Jews in a future generation, or when you and I in this generation, look at Jesus Christ; this is how we have to see Him.
Not as a teacher, not as sort of a benign, willing Savior–although He is a teacher and certainly a Savior–but we have to see Christ in the language of sacrifice, okay? That’s the operative phrase. We have to see Him in the language of sacrifice.
When you’re looking here, you’re hearing the confession of the Jews in the future and the confession of any truly converted person in the present.
And what is the language? You go back to verse 3: despised, forsaken, man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Verse 4: grief, sorrow, stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed, punished, scourged. Verse 7: oppressed, afflicted, slaughtered. Verse 8: oppression, judgment, cut off, meaning killed, struck at the end of verse 8. Verse 10: the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief. He’s a guilt offering, verse 11 and 12, bearing iniquity, bearing sin. What am I saying?
What the gospel is all about
The gospel is about sin, and it’s about judgment, and it’s about atonement, and it’s about death, and it’s about sacrifice, and it’s about blood. The gospel is about oppression, affliction, judgment, execution, being struck; it’s about iniquities, transgressions, sins–that’s the gospel.
That’s the way it has to be understood and explained. Of course the current trend is toward an inoffensive message–reductionist, marginal reference to Christ; as Lewis Johnson said, “Christians reset their theology to every new idea, like resetting your watch every time you find a clock that is different.” But the words of salvation are the words that you find in Isaiah 53. This is how you have to understand the death of Christ. This is how others have to understand it.
Jesus appearance was marred
…let’s look at verse 7, the first of these three, and the trial of Jesus is here presented. How do we know that? Verse 7, “He was oppressed.” He Himself–literally in the Hebrew, He Himself emphatically was oppressed.
This is a word that takes us to brutality; it takes us to enslavement; it is a word that refers to being arrested, to being abused. And it was severe, so severe was His treatment when He was arrested and abused, that verse 14 of chapter 52 says appearance that He had–His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men. He didn’t even look human.
By the time they were finished with Him, both in terms of the physical beating that He took on His body, and the abuse that He took on His head and His face from a crown of thorns, and sticks that beat Him in the face, and spit and sweat and blood running down His face, He didn’t even look human.
According to Luke 23:15, Herod declared His innocence. Three times in Luke 23 Pilate says He’s innocent–three times, and he was the governor.