Jesus Christ: The Exalted Servant

Driving through Texas, a New Yorker collided with a truck carrying a horse. A few months later he tried to collect damages for his injuries. “How can you now claim to have all these injuries?” asked the insurance company’s lawyer. “According to the police report, at the time you said you were not hurt.” “Look,” replied the New Yorker. “I was lying on the road in a lot of pain, and I heard someone say the horse had a broken leg. The net thing I know this Texas Ranger pulls out his gun and shoots the horse. Then he turns to me and asks, ‘Are you okay?'”

(Reader’s Digest, July, 1994, p. 64.)

Sometimes we have a good reason for being in denial about our suffering.  Most of the time, however, we need to learn to follow the example of the Suffering Servant who embraced what He had to suffer, fouynd victory over it, and passed that victory on to us.

  1. The Servant’s suffering would lead to victory (Isaiah 53:9-12).

The first prophecy (v. 9) is physical in nature & involves His burial.

– HE WAS ASSIGNED A GRAVE WITH THE WICKED. This means that those who would kill the Suffering Servant would not be content with His death but conspired to discredit and dishonor Him as well. The practice in Jesus’ day was to throw the bodies of crucified criminals into the garbage pit outside the city of Jerusalem.  That place was called Gehenna and served Jesus as an illustration of what hell is like.  A fire always burned and bodies were abandoned to burn, decay, and/or chewed up by scavengers.  It was a GRAVE only in the sense of a place where a body was left.  To have one’s remains deposited there was a great dishonor among the Jews.  Worse, had Jesus’ body been left there, we would have lost our major piece of evidence to prove His resurrection; the empty tomb.

– AND WITH THE RICH IN HIS DEATH. In spite of their grave assignment, God would not allow His Servant to be dishonored, so He provided for a more suitable resting place.  A rich man’s tomb was more like a columbarium than a grave like we’re used to.  Either a cave or hand-hewn hole in a rock wall was made.  The body was kept and allowed to decay.  Finally, the bones were bleached and placed in a box which was then kept in a niche in the wall of the tomb.  In this way, a single tomb held several remains.

– THOUGH HE HAD DONE NO VIOLENCE, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT IN HIS MOUTH.  This is the reason He deserved an honorable burial.  Though He was treated as a criminal, He was an innocent man in both deed and word and deserved an honorable burial.

The second prophecy (vs. 10-11) is spiritual in nature & involves His provision of salvation.

– To reinforce the point about the Servant’s innocence, Isaiah makes it clear that the Servant’s suffering was THE LORD’S WILL, not a punishment for sin.  The LORD willed it because His suffering became the means by which salvation was made possible.

– To CRUSH someone and cause them to SUFFER is not normally considered to be a good thing, but good came from it; the forgiveness of our sins.  BY HIS KNOWLEDGE MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT WILL JUSTIFY MANY: in Hebrew, this is a play on words; “my righteous servant will make many righteous.”

– Note, MANY, but not all.  We are not Universalists.  The offer of salvation is made to all people but only those who accept it by faith will be made righteous/justified.

– HE WILL BEAR THEIR INIQUITIES.   The terrible irony is that the only perfect man would be counted as the worst sinner because He accepted the guilt for our sins. BEAR means to carry a heavy burden.  It is in the future tense to show that it will be effective for all time.

– BECAUSE HE POURED OUT HIS LIFE UNTO DEATH was fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the cross.

– He WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS.  Remember Jesus was crucified between two criminals.

– HE BORE THE SIN OF MANY.  Jesus took our guilt and shame on the cross.  It was crucified there and no longer holds any power over us.

– HE MADE INTERCESSION FOR THE TRANSGRESSORS.  The outcome of the cross is to intercede for sinners, to enable us to be forgiven

The third prophecy (vs. 10-12) is spiritual in nature & involves His exaltation.

– Ecclesiastes 6:3 lists four signs of God’s blessing = A MAN MAY HAVE A HUNDRED CHILDREN AND LIVE MANY YEARS; YET NO MATTER HOW LONG HE LIVES, IF HE CANNOT ENJOY HIS PROSPERITY  AND DOES NOT RECEIVE A PROPER BURIAL, I SAY THAT A STILLBORN CHILD IS BETTER OFF THAN HE.  Did you hear all four?  All of these are promised the Servant.

– Many children.

– Long life.

– Prosperity.

– A proper burial.

Notice how worldly these things are.  The Jews were fixed on the here and now.  In fact, the Hebrew language has no formal future tense for its verbs!

– In answer to v. 8’s question, WHO CAN SPEAK OF HIS DESCENDANTS?, v. 10 tells us HE WILL SEE HIS OFFSPRING AND PROLONG HIS DAYS.  Of course, in Jesus’ case, His descendants were spiritual, not physical.  (In Mark 3:34-35, Jesus identified the person who does God’s will as His family.)  What’s interesting is that from this point on, Isaiah no longer wrote about the SERVANT of the Lord (singular); he wrote about SERVANTS of the Lord (plural). This shows how the Servant had JUSTIFIED MANY and thereby produced many representatives of Himself.  Having a long life and yet dying as a sacrifice wounds elf-contradictory.  So clearly what’s intended here is not a long life in this world, but one in heaven.

– THE WILL OF THE LORD WILL PROSPER IN HIS HAND.  Our faith gives us a simple and practical view on life; things work out to fulfill God’s plan.  Faithless folk see things working out randomly; life is meaninglessness because when death comes, it is over.  God’s plans will be accomplished.

– HE WILL SEE THE LIGHT OF LIFE AND BE SATISFIED.

– I WILL GIVE HIM A PORTION AMONG THE GREAT.

– HE WILL DIVIDE THE SPOILS WITH THE STRONG.  SPOILS being what the conquering army takes from the conquered.  Jesus defeated sin, Satan, and death, and took human lives from them as His SPOILS.

  1. Fulfillment: The Servant was buried in a rich man’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61).

The fulfillment of some of Isaiah’s prophecies came about as a result of the choices Jesus made (i.e., He read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth – see 3/2/15).  But most of the fulfillments – including this one – were entirely beyond Jesus’ choice or control.

CONTEXT – Matthew provides us with more information about the burial of Jesus than any of the other four Gospels.  As we noted earlier, Jesus’ burial in a tomb is the single most important piece of evidence to prove the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Also, only Matthew mentions that Joseph of Arimathea was rich.  However, the fact that the tomb is new and the amount of spices used (John) would’ve been dead give-aways of wealth to Matthew’s first century readers.  Matthew is intent on showing that Jesus’ burial completely fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53.

COMMENT.

The Jewish leaders had brought Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate under several charges, one of which was treason.  It is important that Pilate did not find Jesus guilty of treason, because no one was ever allowed to claim the body of a traitor for burial.  Their bodies were disposed of in the garbage dump as a final act of disgrace.

The site of the tomb was a former stone quarry.  Picture the quartzite quarry on the west side of town.  The path cut into the rock leading down into the quarry gave access to the stone walls into which the tombs were cut.

Mourning was not allowed for persons executed as enemies of the Roman Empire.  Also, the lateness of the hour – the Sabbath would begin at sundown – kept Jesus’ followers and family (including the women mentioned in v. 61) from observing the burial with any kind of ceremony.  Still, they gave far more respect to Jesus’ body than the Romans would have.

  1. Fulfillment: The Servant was exalted (Romans 8:34).

CONTEXT: Offering one of the most encouraging words in all of Scripture, Paul goes to great lengths to reassure the faithful that nothing can deter the will of God from being enacted and nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Vs. 33-35 pose a set of three rhetorical questions and answers, all a variation of “Who cares who opposes us?  God supports us!”

WHO IS HE THAT CONDEMNS? CHRIST JESUS, WHO DIED – MORE THAN THAT, WHO WAS RAISED TO LIFE – IS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD AND IS ALSO INTERCEDING FOR US.

COMMENT: Contrast this four-part hope with the four-part hope we read in Ecclesiastes 6:3.  You’ll notice Paul’s list is bereft of worldly things and exclusively centered on God.

– Jesus gave up His life as a sacrifice and thereby secured the forgiveness of our sins.

– He was raised to life and is able to give eternal life to all who trust Him.

– He went from the lowest place and apparently the most cursed to the highest place of all.

– The purpose behind His exaltation is to intercede on our behalf.  This makes salvation continue to be operative in us even in this present moment.

We’ve seen in detail how the Lord’s Servant suffered.  But we’ve also seen how His suffering lifted us from slavery to sin to being children of God.  Suffering is not something we like to experience, but it is the most successful way in which we learn and grow and mature, especially spiritually.  For your edification, I’ve assembled some quotations that give us reason to pause and consider the value of suffering for our spirituality.

Once when Bob Hope received a major award he responded, “I don’t deserve this, but then I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that either.”

Someone asked C.S. Lewis, “Why do the righteous suffer?” “Why not?” he replied. “They’re the only ones who can take it.”

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

Helen Keller quoted in: Barbara Rowes, The book of Quotes, Dutton.

“A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has  to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.”  Mildred Witte Struven, in Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 6.

Those who know the path to God, can find it in the dark. Maclaren.

Suffering teaches us patience. These words were found penned on the wall of a prison cell in Europe: “I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent.” Billy Graham, Till Armageddon.

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