The Servant, My Substitute

Isa 52:13-53:12

A. Exaltation 52:13-15

Given the bumps in the road ahead, he truly is my servant; hints are given of his humiliating treatment, despised by even the lowest classes of men, he will ultimately be exalted above the highest kings. In the process, this one that will appear to suffer for his own sin will in fact be the high priest, viewed as ceremonially clean, who brings cleansing from sin to all the nations.

Make no mistake – this one whose profound disfigurement (so that he no longer appeared human) caused such astonishment and amazement that onlookers were convinced that his punishment came from God – he will be exalted. His exaltation will be complete, raised to the place of highest honor, beyond any earthly dignity imaginable. Do NOT look at his humiliation and reach the wrong conclusion:

Luke 24:21a But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.

Especially startling is the declaration that this one who was divinely punished will be the one who brings forgiveness, not just to Israel but to the nations – he will sprinkle them with his blood as Aaron did the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement. Most remarkably, it will be in his disfigurement that he will perform the purifying rite for others.

Leviticus 16:14 He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

It will not be merely the common folks who will be overawed by the Servant; even the kings who had previously despised and ridiculed him will be speechless in astonishment as they are forced to consider the unthinkable – a servant has conquered.

B. Obscurity 53:1-3

This one who will be exalted must first experience obscurity and rejection – he came from very inauspicious roots, had no outward charisma or commanding appearance, nothing to even attract a small following. In fact, he was viewed as insignificant, a nobody, someone to be avoided. It is so counterintuitive that a servant should be the most important person that people reject the idea without further consideration – “who would believe it?”

Isaiah 11:10 “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.”

His beginnings in a poor family, born to a woman not married to his father, exiled to a foreign country shortly after birth, taught a trade by a common working class step-father, relatively unknown until age thirty, gave no hint of his future stature. Viewed as the son of a carpenter and not a gifted scholar or orator, nothing in his outward appearance would attract attention. In fact, his appearance was so commonplace that a traitor’s kiss was deemed necessary to his positive identification in a dimly lit olive garden.

He came to people in the form of a servant. He came not with pomp and glory, but as a man in humble life; and since he came he had not required them to minister to him. “He labored for them.” He strove to do them good. He provided for their needs; fared as poorly as they did; went before them in dangers and sufferings; practiced self-denial on their account, and for them was about to lay down his life. Barnes on Mark 10:45

What was the example shown to us? See Joh_13:12-17

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

C. Substitution 53:4-6

Nothing He experienced was for himself, for his benefit, or on account of his nature or actions – it was all for others. Nothing he accomplished was for his own use or benefit – everything he gained for others he already possessed and more.

He knew no sin, shared the glory of the Father, had spent an eternity in heaven already, was the author of life and had experienced nothing but life

He came to save his people, not himself – remember the taunts at his crucifixion:

Luke 23:39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

That was not his purpose.

Isaiah 53:4-6 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

As we gazed on him we saw the greatness of his affliction but failed to see the greatness of our iniquity and our consequent need for forgiveness. Yet it was through his bearing of our sin and its punishment that our peace with God was purchased; it was through his suffering in our place that God could justly grant us forgiveness and healing.

12. Q. Since, according to God’s righteous judgment we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how can we escape this punishment and be again received into favor?

A. God demands that His justice be satisfied. Therefore full payment must be made either by ourselves or by another.

13. Q. Can we ourselves make this payment?

A. Certainly not. On the contrary, we daily increase our debt.

14. Q. Can any mere creature pay for us?

A. No. In the first place, God will not punish another creature for the sin which man has committed. Furthermore, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin and deliver others from it.

15. Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer must we seek?

A. One who is a true and righteous man, and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is at the same time true God.

16. Q. Why must He be a true and righteous man?

A. He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner cannot pay for others.

17. Q. Why must He at the same time be true God?

A. He must be true God so that by the power of His divine nature He might bear in His human nature the burden of God’s wrath, and might obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

18. Q. But who is that Mediator who at the same time is true God and a true and righteous man?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Heidelberg Catechism

D. Injustice 53:7-10a

Claiming that the Servant was a “willing victim” does not eliminate the great injustices that were done to him. From human perspective he was falsely accused, convicted of that accusation (blasphemy), and treated as if he were actually guilty – brutally tortured and killed. Their evil intentions extended beyond his execution to his burial – planning to deny him the dignity of a proper interment,

The Sanhedrin also followed some important laws. Any false witness would pay the same penalty as the one he witnessed against. They could not prosecute the accused; they could only try him. No court could convene at night or in any other place except the Judgment Hall. No hearing could convene in the late afternoon, lest justice be hurried to a hasty and wrongful conclusion. No convicted criminal could be executed the same day he was tried. A one-day interval was required. No execution could be held on a feast day, or the day before. All the votes were carefully counted. And no one could incriminate himself by giving testimony against himself.

The Jewish leaders violated every single one of those safeguards. They never gave Jesus a public trial; they held it privately. They didn’t allow Him to make a defense–no witnesses spoke on His behalf. They couldn’t find two or more witnesses to convict Him of anything. They actually bribed some false witnesses, which was contrary to their efforts of discouraging false witnesses through severe punishment. They were not allowed to prosecute an individual, yet they did that. There was no prior prosecution because there was no crime. They met in the middle of the night. They sentenced and executed Him the same day. The trial took place on a feast day. They met outside the Hall of Judgment. And they never bothered to count the votes. John MacArthur, Jesus on Trial
http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/sg2390.htm

To all of this treatment he said not a word in his own defense (“he opened not his mouth”) nor did he have an advocate to speak for him (“who will declare his generation?”). In fact, in regard to what had been done to him by evil men he said:

Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”And they divided His garments and cast lots.

It was only when he became the focus of his Father’s wrath directed against our sin he was bearing, as the Lord bruised him, that he asked “Why?”

Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

E. Consummation 53:10b-12

Even though he will experience punishment from both man and God, it will not consume him. He was ‘cut off’ in verse 8 but he will see his offspring and enjoy a long life in verse 10. Remember Heidelberg Q. 17, it was necessary that our Redeemer have divine power in order to experience divine wrath and not be destroyed. It is this, the Servant’s not being imprisoned by death, that enabled Paul to ask those spine-tingling rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

Both the Lord and the Servant will be pleased/satisfied with the success of his labors – by bearing their iniquities he will accomplish the justification of many. The Servant will actually complete the task given him by God – save his people. He didn’t merely make eternal life a possibility, the Servant actually purchased it for his people by bearing the iniquities of those whom he justified, and at the cost of his own life.

Thought by others to be a sinner, by his victory over sin and death the Servant has acquired the right to intercede for true sinners, those whose sins he “bore …in his own body on the tree” ( 1Pe_2:24 ). Having conquered the enemy and as a reward for his suffering, the Servant will be exalted to the place of highest honor. From that place of honor he will distribute the treasures he has at his disposal – “God [has given] us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven!” ( Eph_1:3, Phillips) The blessings with which God has blessed us in Christ, although their fulness is reserved for heaven, begin for us experientially in this life. They are “spiritual”, that is, they come to us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit and are rooted in Christ.

“Jesus could accomplish man’s redemption in no other way than by crucifixion—He must die, and die the death of the cross. What light and glory beam around the cross! Of what prodigies of grace is it the instrument, of what glorious truths is it the symbol, of what mighty, magic power is it the source! Around it gathers all the light of the Old Testament economy. It explains every symbol—it substantiates every shadow—it solves every mystery—it fulfills every type—it confirms every prophecy of that dispensation which had eternally remained unmeaning and inexplicable except for the death of the Son of God upon the cross.

Not the past only, but all future splendor gathers around the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It assures us of the ultimate reign of the Savior and tells of the reward which shall spring from His sufferings—and while its one arm points to the divine counsels of eternity past, with the other it points to the future triumph and glory of Christ’s kingdom in the eternity to come. Such is the lowly yet sublime—the weak yet mighty instrument by which the sinner is saved and God eternally glorified.” Octavius Winslow, Christ’s Sympathy to Weary Pilgrims

John Newton – Two things I know: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. Why is that? Because the perfect Lamb of God, the divine eternal Son of God put his Father’s will, put his Father’s glory and our good before his own welfare. Because of that we can find cleansing for our filthy souls in the blood of Calvary; only there will we find clean hearts, only when we go to the cross can we sing Calvary’s An them, Valley of Vision.

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