Isaiah 53:7-9 God’s Servant Will Be Submissive Part 4 of 5

Isaiah 53:7-9 God’s Servant Will Be Submissive Part 4 of 5

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the fourth stanza of this servant song when Philip met him. He admitted that he didn’t understand what he was reading and “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). This is a prophecy about the Lord Jesus and more specifically about His attitude to His sufferings. In one sense, men were responsible for those sufferings: He was despised and rejected (v3), wounded and bruised (v5), oppressed and afflicted (v7) at the hands of men. In another sense God did it: “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (v6). But the focus in this stanza is that through it all the Lord Jesus submitted to what was happening without any resistance or retaliation.

1. His Trial: 53:7

At His trials before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, He was “oppressed and afflicted”. These men had a measure of authority and misused it as they bullied the prisoner before them, put Him down and humiliated Him.

However, the focus is not on what they did to Him but on how He responded and twice we read that “He opened not His mouth”. Of course, He did say some things. When the high priest asked a direct question about whether He was the Christ, the Son of God, He didn’t avoid it: “It is as You say” (Matthew 27:11). Similarly, when Pilate asked if He was the king of the Jews, Jesus replied, “It is as You say” (Mark 15:2).

He did not try to defend Himself

But He did not try to vindicate Himself or plead His innocence. Caiaphas said, “Do you answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” The charges were absurd, the testimony was weak and He could have responded. “But Jesus kept silent” (Matthew 26:62-63).

“And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ But He answered Him not one word, so that the governor marvelled greatly.” (Matthew 27:12-14). John adds that Pilate “said to Him, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave Him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’” Then Jesus spoke up, not in His own defence, but boldly to set the record straight, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:9-11).

Pilate sent Him to Herod and Herod was glad, hoping to see some miracle. “Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9).

He did not seek revenge

“He was led as a lamb to the slaughter”. John the Baptist may have had this text in mind when he saw the Lord Jesus coming towards him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We cannot know the thoughts that were passing through John’s mind. He had knowledge of various passages in the Old Testament and may have seen the Lord Jesus, for example, as the answer to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb?” (Genesis 22:7); or as the realization of the Passover type (Exodus 12); and possibly also as the fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah 53.

A lamb is docile and submissive. Far from seeking revenge, the Lord Jesus prayed for those who killed Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). His prayer wasn’t a general request for forgiveness but a specific request with respect to a specific sin. They were crucifying Him. He in effect prays, “Father, do not execute Your judgment upon them for what they are doing. Hold back Your judgement. Forgive them for their part in My death.”

Joseph’s brothers were callous and cruel towards him and, when they came to Egypt, he was in a position to take revenge. But he never did. Neither did he seek to get back at Potiphar’s wife. When she heard about the young Hebrew who had been promoted at the court of Pharaoh she may have trembled, but she needn’t have feared. There were no thoughts of vengeance on his part. Nor were there with the Lord Jesus:

2. His crucifixion: 53:8

No justice

There is some uncertainty about how to translate the opening statement of v8. Some translations render it, “By oppression and judgement He was taken away.” The point would then be that the servant was the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice. That interpretation is suggested in Luke’s quotation: “In His humiliation His justice (or His claim for justice) was taken away” (Acts 8:33). As in the case of Joseph when Potiphar’s wife levelled her false accusations against him, there was no justice and no fair trial. Before Caiaphas the Lord Jesus acknowledged that He was the Christ the Son of God and the high priest tore his garments and asked, “What do you think?” “They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death’.” (Matthew 27:66). Was that a crime which deserved death? The charges were invalid, the testimony unreliable, and the sentence altogether inappropriate.

No understanding

The statement that follows is difficult too. The NIV suggests that it refers to His having no offspring: “Who can speak of His descendants?” To die without children was considered a great shame and He had nothing to show in terms of descendants. If that is what is meant, then it is interesting that v10 tells us, “He shall see His seed.” In other words He does have offspring, although not in a physical sense!

The ASV and RSV render it something like this, “As for His generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living…” We’ve seen in the previous stanzas that the people of Israel did not understand what was going on. In fact neither did the disciples. It was after His death and resurrection that they began to understand that “for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”

Again this verse suggests that on the part of the Lord Jesus there was submission: “He was taken…” He didn’t have to submit, but He allowed them to take Him:

The officers came into the garden and “took Jesus and bound Him” (John 18:12). When He uttered those majestic words, “I am,” they fell helpless before Him. Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant but the Lord Jesus would have none of that.

Pilate was frustrated at the proceedings, at the absurdity of the charges and at the refusal of the accused to cooperate. And he “took Jesus and scourged Him” (John 19:1). He said to Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11).

Pilate handed Him over to be crucified and the soldiers “took Jesus and led Him away” (John 19:16). He had said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself,” (John 10:18).

In all of these situations, He could have resisted, but He allowed them to take Him.

3. His burial: 53:9

This verse can be read in two ways:

Contrasting statements – “…BUT with the rich in His death BECAUSE He had done…”

There were two criminals crucified with the Lord Jesus and it was intended that He be buried with them in a common grave, but God overruled. Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus and buried Him in a tomb in which no dead body had previously been laid. Contrary to the intentions of those who killed Him, He was with the rich in His burial. And that was appropriate “because He had done no violence…”

That may be the correct interpretation, but it is interesting that all four Gospel writers describe the burial of the Lord Jesus but not one of them refers to Isaiah 53:9 having been fulfilled when Joseph buried the body of Jesus. The other possible reading may, therefore, be better.

Parallel statements – “…AND with the rich in His death THOUGH He had done…”

Oftentimes in Scripture the rich have obtained their wealth by wicked means and trust in their wealth rather than in God. Therefore, the rich represent those who are opposed to God. The intention of the executioners was to associate Him in His death with those who were the enemies of God, the wicked and the rich, in spite of the fact that He did not deserve to be identified with them: “though He had done no violence…”

“Nor was any deceit in His mouth.”

Peter quotes the last statement of this verse and again it is in connection with the submission of the Lord Jesus. He talks about His sufferings and points out that His attitude towards them is an example to us, “What credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:20-23).

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