Summary: Jesus suffered for us; how should we respond to suffering
Jesus the Suffering Servant – Is. 42:1-7; 52:13-53:12 Steve Simala Grant, January 12/13, 2002
Intro: Oswald Chambers wrote: “Suffering is the heritage of the bad, of the penitent, and of the Son of God. Each one ends in the cross. The bad thief is crucified, the penitent thief is crucified, and the Son of God is crucified. By these signs we know the widespread heritage of suffering.” This morning we are going to look at suffering, as it applies to Jesus and as it applies to us.
Context: One of the amazing things about our faith is the ability God gives us to look back over time and see how everything that is happening now is part of His plan. As we study the Old Testament in light of Jesus’ coming, we are able to do just that – to see how God had been planning to send Jesus, preparing His people and the rest of the world for that event, and even giving us detailed pictures of events long before they came about. We saw that last week as we looked at Psalm 22, as a portrait of Jesus the Suffering King. This morning we are going to look at another portrait of Jesus in the OT, found in the book of Isaiah – the portrait of Jesus the Suffering Servant. We are going to look at both 42:1-7 and 52:13-53:12. These two passages are part of what are known as “The Servant Songs” in the last half of the book of Isaiah. There are four passages there which talk about “the servant of the Lord.” And so, of course, the first question that comes to mind is “Who is this servant?” 1. The Identity of the Servant:
Isaiah was a prophet; as such his role was (if I can oversimplify it) to speak to the people on behalf of God. Sometimes this was forward looking – “God will do…,” but the main concern was always to speak to the people regarding their present circumstances. One of the amazing things about how God works is that He can speak to His people in their circumstances but also see far ahead and have the words mean something far more significant later on. That is what we see happening in the servant songs in Isaiah. If we were to take the time to look at the history and background in depth, we could identify the servant in Isaiah’s time. But because we now look back through Jesus and His work on the cross, we see that Isaiah’s descriptions are most true about Jesus.
John 12:41states it clearly: Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him – this after quoting two specific passages from Isaiah, one of which is in our text this morning. And there are a number of evidences in the verses themselves: Who but Jesus:
• brings justice to the nations (42:1)
• establishes justice on earth without faltering (42:4)
• is a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles (42:6)
• opens eyes that are blind/frees captives (42:7)
• was humiliated and then exalted (52:14-15)
• and the climax: could (and did) take the punishment for our sin, as a substitute for us (53:5-6, 11-12).
The rest of the New Testament also makes it clear that we can look back and see Jesus as the suffering servant in Isaiah 42 and 53. Acts 8:26-40 tells the story of a man from Ethiopia reading the same passage we have read, and asking the same question: who is the prophet talking about? And beginning from there, Philip “told him the good news about Jesus.” My study Bible makes the claim that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is quoted more in the NT than any other OT text, and those quotes are linked explicitly to Jesus.
So, enough background. What picture of Christ does this paint, and what does that mean for you and I? Those are the next questions I want to look at this morning. 2. The Role of the Servant:
The picture is first of a servant. We know this is exactly how Jesus lived His life on earth: Philippians 2:7 tells us Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” In Matthew 20:28, in a very direct allusion to Isaiah 42/53, Jesus says: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The most famous example is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples in the upper room the night He was betrayed (John 13).
Isn’t that an incredible thing. I want you to think on that for a moment – Jesus, our Lord and Savior and King – came to serve. He served God the Father first, of course, but He served His disciples also. Why? He tells us exactly why in John 13 – to be an example for us of how we need to treat one another. We need to be servants also. We need to look for ways to meet one another’s needs – not in flashy, noticeable, obvious ways that result in all kinds of public accolades – but like Jesus in ways that genuinely meet needs of the heart without fanfare and publicity. And let me tell you from experience – that is exciting ministry. The time I cleaned a rather disgusting plugged toilet at a missions project, gave a street person a winter jacket, sat on the floor outside a Sunday School classroom with a student who had been disruptive and so had to sit outside, made a quiet phone call to encourage a friend – those are the times I felt most Christlike, most in the center of God’s will, most like I was following the example of my King. Service – ministry – as a servant is invigorating and exciting. And it is obedient. 3. The Suffering of the Servant: