The Servant’s Beginning | Isa. 53:1-3
First, he is likened to “a tender shoot” and “a root out of parched ground” (53:2). These are references to His humble beginnings in a hostile environment. Second, he was unattractive (53:2). There was nothing charismatic about His appearance. Third, he experienced the sting of rejection and scorn (53:3).
53:1 Who has believed our message [concerning a Servant who would suffer on behalf of others; message seemed too incredible to believe] and to whom has the arm [strength] of the LORD been revealed [God’s saving power revealed through Servant]?
53:2 He grew up before him [w/ God’s attention centered on Him] like [note unimpressive credentials] a tender [frail] shoot [cf. Isa. 11:1], and like a root out of dry ground [lowly conditions out of which Servant came; struggle in unresponsive soil]. [re: Servant’s outward appearance] He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him [did not look like a winner], nothing in his appearance that we should desire him [appeared to be a less-than-ordinary person; no striking physical characteristics; cf. 1 Sam. 16:7].
53:3 He was despised [treat w/ contempt; to scorn; sold out for 30 pieces of silver (Lk. 22:4-6)] and rejected by men [did not consider Him worthy of their time], a man of sorrows [His life was filled with grief and pain (due to sins of human race)], and familiar with suffering [greatest suffering on cross]. Like one from whom men hide their faces [as if He had loathsome disease; sickened by sight of His agony on the cross] he was despised, and we esteemed him not [John 1:10-11; we did not give Him a thought].
The Servant’s Suffering | Isa. 53:4-6
First, people who looked upon him thought that he was suffering on account of His own sins (53:4) rather than theirs (53:5). Second, he suffered a violent physical death (53:5). He was “pierced,” “crushed,” chastened, and scourged. Third, God laid our sins upon the Servant (53:6). The use of personal pronouns in these verses accentuate the fact that the Servant suffered because of what we had done and not because of anything he had done. Our sins were the cause of His agony. Fourth, all that the Servant did He did for us. . .”for our well-being” and healing (53:5).
53:4 Surely he took up [conveys idea of bearing, lifting up, carrying] our [Messiah’s pain was for our sake] infirmities [sickness, diseases, illnesses] and carried [cf. 1 Pet. 2:24] our sorrows [pain/suffering caused by sin], yet we [mistakenly] considered him [instead of considering what our sins had done to Him] stricken by [common conception that sickness/pain punishment for wrongdoing] God, smitten by him, and afflicted [humiliated].
Note: Matthew 8:14-17 applies this verse to Jesus’ healing ministry and not His atoning death.
53:5 But [transition to real reason for His sufferings] he [voluntarily] was pierced [mortal wound; pierced to point of death; indicates violent death; points to crucifixion] for our [cause of His agony] transgressions [deliberate revolt against God], he was crushed [death by crucifixion as weight of body crushes lungs; under weight of our sin] for our iniquities [moral twistedness or crookedness]; the punishment [of our sin] that brought us peace [wholeness, well-being: result of being in right relationship w/ God] was upon him, and by his wounds [cf. Jn. 19:1; 1 Pet. 2:24] we are healed [refers to healing of our souls and of our relationship to God; forgiveness of sins, not healing of body as per 1 Pet. 2:24].
53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray [reason for Servant’s suffering; cf. Rom. 3:23], each of us has turned to his own [rather than God’s] way [cf. Prov. 14:12]; and the LORD has laid [to hit, to strike violently, He bore the blows of our sins and blows of God’s judgment upon our sins] on him [substitutionary atonement] the iniquity of us all.
The Servant’s Death | Isa. 53:7-9
These verses should be read with an understanding of all that Christ experienced from Pilate’s court to Joseph’s tomb. First, His death was sacrificial (53:7). Second, he remained silent while being led to the slaughter (53:7). Third, he suffered a gross miscarriage of justice and was led to His death (53:8). Fourth, he was buried in the tomb of a rich man (53:9).
53:7 He was oppressed [treated harshly] and afflicted [abused], yet he did not open his mouth [quietly accepted the punishment other people deserved; cf. 1 Pet. 2:23]; he was led like a lamb [emphasizes victim’s silent submission; cf. sacrificial lamb of Passover in Ex. 12:3] to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent [Jesus did not protest unjust treatment He received (cf. Mk. 14:60-61); He did not protest even though He knew what was ahead], so he did not open his mouth.
Note: The Ethiopian eunuch was reading this text when Philip approached him on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza (Acts 8:30-35).
53:8 By oppression and judgment [Jesus tried, convicted, executed (miscarriage of justice)] he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants [possibly reference to terrible fate of dying childless; or, Who spoke up for Him? Who has given slightest thought re: reason for His suffering]? For he was cut off [conveys violent severance] from the land of the living [confirms that Servant died]; for the transgression of my people [portrays substitutionary nature of Servant’s death] he was stricken.
53:9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked [put to death like criminal; executioners planned to bury Him in place reserved for wicked], and with the rich in his death [God did not allow His Servant to be buried like criminal; Jesus buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (cf. Matt. 27:57-60)], though [affirmation of Servant’s innocence] he had done no violence [although charged otherwise: cf. Matt. 26:59-61], nor was any deceit in his mouth.
The Servant’s Triumph | Isa. 53:10-12
First, His death was part of a divine plan (53:10). His death was not an accident. Second, the Servant did not remain dead. God prolonged His days (53:10). He was resurrected. Third, the Servant will have a numerous spiritual posterity (53:10), a reference to all who place their faith in Christ through the centuries.
53:10 Yet it was the LORD’s will [Servant’s death by God’s design; God in control: cf. Jn. 19:10-11; in God’s plan for our redemption (Acts 2:22-23)] to crush him and cause him to suffer [because God had our redemption in view], and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering [only place in Bible where person referred to in this way], he will see his offspring [spiritual descendants] and prolong his days [reference to resurrection], and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
53:11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life [reference to the resurrection; cf. Ps. 22:30] and be satisfied [because of the results of His death and resurrection]; by his knowledge [either knowledge Christ possesses concerning Father or knowledge we receive through faith in Christ (Jn. 17:3)] my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
53:12 [affirmation of victory; image of a king who has led his troops into battle, has won, and is enjoying the fruits of victory] Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors [cf. Lk. 22:37; 1 Cor. 1:18]. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Note: Isaiah 53 teaches us that His suffering was…
• in obedience to the Lord
• for us all
• mediatorial, that is, it was to have the power of effecting peace and reconciliation