The prophecy of Christ’s suffering and death for our sins humbles us with the revelation of His love and commitment to His Father and to us. It calls us to live our lives as His servants in humble, faithful submission to Him in gratitude for His sacrifice.
The Gospel of Christ in Isaiah
On this journey through Isaiah, we arrive at chapters 52 and 53 and what one author called the Mount Everest of messianic prophecy.
This is actually a lengthy poem, and we are going to let this song do most of the talking. It is going to predict in a very moving way some of what the Messiah will experience as He suffers for our salvation.
Beloved, this is sacred ground; this is a description, not only of what the Messiah experienced, but also of what He felt as He suffered and died.
Here in verses 14-15, we read:
His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations.
This describes the result of the beatings He receives before being crucified. It starts with the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, pummeling Him with their fists and mocking Him, saying, “Tell us who hit you.” It continues with the scourging He suffers from the Roman soldiers. That scourging was called by historians the “half-death” because the whipping left the victim half-dead. Jesus’ beatings literally disfigured His appearance, as Isaiah prophesies, beyond human recognition.
Yet did you notice Isaiah saying here that He shall “sprinkle many nations”? You can translate that Hebrew verb one of two ways. It can mean “to startle,” and this would refer to the appearance of Jesus so marred that no one would ever consider Him a candidate for Israel’s Messiah-King. But you can also translate the verb, as it is here in my English Standard Version, “to sprinkle.” This would be a reference to the priestly function of sprinkling sacrificial blood on the altar for the cleansing of sin (Leviticus 17). His blood was splattered, so to speak, for our cleansing.
Verse 15 says, “Kings shall shut their mouths because of him.” When they understand the meaning of His death, they will be dumbfounded—speechless.
Now in chapter 53, Isaiah puts a question in the mouths of those who have heard the gospel concerning the Messiah. They ask here in verse 1, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” While the mighty power of God was revealed in Jesus, not many in Israel believed in Him. Isaiah prophesies that few in Israel will come to that cross and believe in Christ. Why not? Well, verses 2-3 explain:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 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.
That is, nobody looked up to Him. There was nothing special about Jesus physically that caused people to think, He must be God in the flesh! Not even close. He had no beauty that we should envy Him or promote Him.
Don’t miss this: While He remained in glory prior to His incarnation, God the Son had the divine ability to literally choose what kind of man he would look like.
Now if we had that ability, we would probably arrange the DNA so that we were quite good looking. Ladies, you would stop traffic you would be so beautiful; and men, you would be handsome supermen. But we are told here that God the Son arranged to look like an unimpressive form or physique—quite literally, He chose to be an unattractive man.
His humility is quite amazing!
Why did He go through with this humility in becoming one of us? Isaiah tells us here in verses 4-5:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
And by the way, to make sure there is no thought that anyone might have peace and spiritual healing apart from this suffering Messiah, Isaiah records these words in verse 6:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Here, in the strongest terms possible, the Messiah’s prophesied death is described as substitutionary. He will give His life for each of us. Because of His grace and mercy, the piercing, crushing, chastisement that should be ours will be placed upon Him. The only way you can have peace with God and forgiveness for your sins is to trust in His work alone on your behalf.
To try to add your own efforts to His work is nothing less than an insult. That would be like picking up a paintbrush and walking over to the Mona Lisa and telling Leonardo da Vinci to step aside while you improve on his masterpiece.
Christ refused to defend Himself—to save Himself—choosing rather to die for you and me. In doing so, He fulfilled this prophecy of Isaiah to the letter—verse 7:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
We read here in verse 10, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” The death of Jesus was not an accident—it was not misguided. It was the will of the Father that His Son voluntarily lay down His life for us.
Verse 10 goes on to speak of Christ’s vindication: “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.” His offspring are all who have placed their faith in this Lamb of God. The Old Testament believer looked forward to the cross. We in the New Testament era look back to the cross, knowing we are forgiven freely because Jesus paid it all.
Heaven is free to you today, my friend, because Jesus made the payment for your sin and mine. Isaiah writes here in verse 12:
He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many.
The wonderful truth here is not just that Jesus died; as one author said, “That is simply a fact of history.” That is like saying Abraham Lincoln died. Listen, the glory of the gospel is personal—Jesus died for our sins. He died for you and me.
Beloved, our Lord Jesus was punished in our place. When He hung on the cross, just before dying, He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). That’s one word in the Greek New Testament, tetelestai, which means, “paid in full.”
If you were sent to jail in the first century for stealing, the jailer would write your crime on a parchment—“stealing”—along with the length of your sentence. At the end of six months or so, after you finished serving your sentence, the jailer would write across that same parchment one word: tetelestai. He would hand you the parchment so you would have it to show as proof that you had paid in full for your crime.
This is the word Jesus cried out as He died: “Paid in full.” Jesus paid in full for your crimes and mine—for every sinful deed and every evil thought. You and I can be offered forgiveness and taken to heaven one day, free of charge, because Jesus paid it all.
Let me ask you this: Have you placed your trust in Him and what He did for you? Have you admitted you are a sinner and need Him to save you? You can do that right now—wherever you are. Accept Him now, and make Him your Lord and Savior.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted (Victor Books, 1996), 131.
 Wiersbe, 141.