Summary: Jews don't read Isaiah 53 in the Synagogue anymore. Why not? Is it because of what they don't understand in that chapter, or because of what they do?

Many people refer to Isaiah 53 as being the “forbidden chapter” of the Bible! For centuries, Jewish synagogues would include this chapter in their yearly readings. But not anymore. Today when Jewish people read Isaiah 52 in the Synagogue, they stop before they get to end of the chapter (at verse 12) and the next week they just jump straight into Isaiah 54. It’s not that Jewish people CAN’T read Isaiah 53 for themselves - it’s just that it’s not “officially” part of their book anymore. That section of Isaiah just doesn’t exist for them.

ILLUS: One man said he found a Hebrew Study Bible at his local bookstore, and (out of curiosity) turned to Isaiah 53 and he saw this footnote: “This is a very difficult passage.” And he thought to himself: “Why is this a difficult passage? Is it difficult because they DON’T understand what it says? Or is it difficult because they DO understand what it says?” (Marc Axelrod)

Well, what does it say? Isaiah 53 says that God was going to send His servant… and that servant would be exalted. But His appearance would be marred - He had no majesty or beauty that we should desire him. He was going to be despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows. He’d carry our griefs and sorrows, and He’d be pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities. His sufferings would bring us peace, and his wounds would heal us. He would be oppressed, and afflicted… and yet he would not open His mouth. Like a lamb being led to slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers is silent, He wouldn’t open his mouth. By oppression and judgment He would be taken away; He would be cut off from the land of the living (HE WOULD DIE). He’d be stricken FOR the transgression of God’s people. And they would make his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death.

Now, that kinda sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? And that’s part of the reason that the Jews don’t read it in the synagogue anymore.

What’s interesting is, up until about 1000 years ago - every Jewish rabbi taught that this chapter (Isaiah 53) described the Messiah …. the coming King! EVERYBODY AGREED!

But then, there was this Jewish Rabbi who disagreed. They called him Rabbi Rashi, and he lived in Spain about 1000 years ago. Some of his Christian friends and neighbors tried to convince him that Biblical prophecy especially) in Isaiah 53 pointed to Jesus. And because this prophecy was so clear… Rashi had a problem. He obviously didn’t want to admit that Jesus was the Messiah, so he reinterpreted the prophecy so that it was no longer applied to the Messiah. (

Now, Isaiah 53:1 asks a very interesting question. And the question is this: “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” There’s something about the things that are said in Isaiah 53 that’s difficult for a lot of folks to believe

I mean - modern day Jews struggle with the idea that this might describe Jesus. But even in the days of Jesus, when rabbis accepted that this prophecy described the messiah - they STILL struggled to understand it. The prophecy spoke of a coming Messiah who would be wounded and suffer and be slaughtered and die like a common sheep, and then he’d die with the wicked? THAT DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!

So when Jesus came, and He told His closest followers that He would be arrested, beaten, crucified and buried, and rise on the 3rd day - nobody believed Him. “Who has believed he has heard from us?” NOBODY! They could read the chapter for themselves… but they didn’t really BELIEVE it. They weren’t looking for a King who die for their sins. They were looking for a man who could throw off the shackles of Rome and make Israel into a great nation again. They couldn’t believe what God meant to say in this chapter.

So let’s look at Isaiah 53 and ask: what did GOD mean to say. Well, what God was saying was this - He was going to send the Messiah… to change YOUR life. He bore YOUR griefs and carried YOUR sorrows; He was pierced for YOUR transgressions; He was crushed for YOUR iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought YOU peace, and by His wounds YOU are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; YOU have turned to YOUR own way; and the LORD has laid on Him YOUR iniquity. Isaiah 53:4-6

Now, I’ve taken a little liberty with the passage. I’ve changed it to help you understand… Jesus did this FOR YOU! You and I need to take this personally. What Jesus did He did for YOU to change YOUR life!

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