It is difficult to comprehend how God’s ‘chosen one in whom He delights’ (Isaiah 42 v 1) could so soon become the one who has no attractiveness and is despised and rejected and from whom people hide their faces! In today’s second reading in Isaiah 53, God through His holy prophet, confronts each of us, personally, with our own wickedness and sin. The change isn’t due to God, or His chosen Servant! It is you and I whose behaviour brought about the change of perspective on this chosen Servant.
Isaiah reveals us all in our weakness and utter depravity.
If we were to respond to Pilate’s words and “behold the man!”, what do we see:
· He is disfigured and marred (ch 52 v 14)
· He has no beauty or majesty which makes him attractive (53 v 2)
· He is despised and rejected by all (v 3)
· He is suffering and borne down by pain (v 3)
· He is held in low esteem (v 3)
· He is considered punished, stricken and afflicted by God (v 4)
· He is pierced and crushed (v 5)
· He is oppressed and afflicted (v 7)
Why? Because humanity has turned away from God from the beginning. “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” (verse 6)! It is our sins that caused him to be there. More personally, and starkly, as we sing in one of our English worship songs, it is MY sin ‘that held him there’.
The prophet describes this singular act of lawlessness in which he was taken away as ‘oppression and judgement…..yet who of his generation protested?’ (v 8).
As for Jesus himself, the prophet is very adamant—twice he says, he remained silent in the face of the greatest injustice that the world has seen.
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (v 8)
We are living in an environment of vocal protest against many forms of human oppression and mismanagement. Understandably, God’s saints are distressed by what we are seeing and asking what our response should be.
The apostle Peter describes this Isaiah 53 event and Jesus’ actions as an example which we should follow, in these words:
“It is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God…..But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth’. 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.” (1 Peter 2 vv 19 – 24)
The apostle continues to quote the words of Isaiah 53 and how Jesus sacrificed himself in bearing our sins.
So, asking the question again—‘what should our response be to the current distress?’ Surely, Peter’s words apply! We have Jesus for an example. He remained silent in the face of the injustice he suffered throughout his life and most notably in his final hours. He ‘opened not his mouth’. Does that mean he did nothing? Certainly not! He may have been a silent Lamb, but he was efficient in working his Father’s will. While he remained silent in the face of the civil authorities’ failures to rule according to God’s law, each and every day was spent ministering to the inevitable needs of people because of sin—both Jew and Gentile. He came preaching repentance for the kingdom of God was near. But in bearing our sins as part of God’s plan of salvation, he also bore the suffering and healed the diseases of those with whom he came in contact. He taught the people AND touched their lives. Matthew says that his healing ministry was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53—“he took up our infirmities and bore our diseases’ (Matthew 8 v 16-18). If Jesus is our example, then bearing his reproach, sharing in his suffering, without complaint or protesting voice, is certainly part of our current role. We believe the prophets, Jesus and his apostles. They have said, that before the King’s ‘stealthy advent’ the world will get worse—there will be a time of trouble such as has never occurred before. What wonderful opportunities that will provide for us to do as Jesus did—we can preach repentance for the Kingdom is certainly near, and we can serve the dire needs of others, sharing their suffering, as our Master bore our sins and suffering.
In the week ahead, reflect on today’s reading and our Master’s example. If it was necessary for him to ‘learn obedience by the things which he suffered’ (Hebrews 5), then how much more for those who follow him. Find some ways this week in which to ‘teach and touch’!
Click to complete our free preparing for baptism lessons on the gospel here and we will personally keep in touch with you as you grow in faith.