Jesus arrived on the scene with thousands of years of Biblical prophecy foretelling Him. Perhaps the most glorious and most difficult passages for His contemporaries to understand were those talking about the Suffering Servant. This sermon pulls back the curtain on these prophecies, especially in Isaiah, and tells us the back-story on why the Messiah came in the first place.
These people saw Jesus physically, but didn’t see who He was. But His arrival, and His story of suffering, had been predicted thousands of years earlier.
The messianic prophecies came to their peak 700 years before Jesus was born in the “servant of the Lord” passages in Isaiah. Snapshots, glimpses of Him in His various roles and actions, and they revealed what most people didn’t want to see:
Let’s look at the first one in Isaiah, something Jesus would likely have covered in his talk with his travelers in Luke 24.
Isaiah 42:1-7–passage shows the Lord’s delight with His anointed servant and how gentle he is.
Especially: A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
The Messiah was thought to be like the warrior King David. But Isaiah says He will do it all without even raising his voice. The King of the Universe would come, but quietly. Think of how approachable Jesus was.
Then perhaps Jesus called the travelers He’d met to another chapter in Isaiah–ch. 49.
Isaiah 49:3-7, especially v. 6: a light to the Gentiles and bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.
For those who paid close attention to the Jewish Scriptures (OT), this would not have been a big surprise. God had told Abraham, the father of the nation, that all the families of the earth would be blessed in Him through his descendants. But they kept looking at the Messiah as for them only, and many felt the Messiah was exclusively for them.
Good question for us: How do we feel about Jesus? Is He just ours, or do we see Him as the answer to everyone’s deepest need?.
And maybe Jesus led them to the next chapter in Isaiah–50–that highlighted His own obedience.
Isaiah 50:4-10 v. 5–”I was not rebellious nor did I turn away” would have made sense. But then there is something that would have shocked the reader:
This servant will suffer, but will ultimately be vindicated.
These verses also give us insight into how Jesus felt and thought–a rare find in the Old Testament.
Then the peak scriptures within the peak scriptures.
The SUFFERING Servant–Isaiah 52:13-53:12–more details and reasons why He had to suffer.
52:14 Roman soldiers had bruised his face deeply, probably broke facial bones and knocked out teeth. His eyes were probably swollen shut. As Isaiah had predicted, “he was marred beyond human likeness.”
53:2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was evidently a normal-looking ordinary person.
Perhaps most famous of these verses. Isaiah 53:3-5 Let’s not be hesitant to use these prophetic words from the OT. They’re part of our gospel tool bag! This man was obviously interested in the OT writings, but he probably wasn’t Jewish! These prophetic scriptures have life in themselves–they can touch unbelievers!
There is much more to the thread of the suffering servant, even in Is. 53!
But what Jesus said to His fellow travelers– “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”–applies to us! Do we have eyes to see references to the Suffering Servant not just in the OT, but throughout the entire history of mankind?
From a sermon by John Piper:
They knew that from the Old Testament, starting with Adam and Eve they learned that God by means of a sacrifice will cover the sinner’s guilt. From Abel they had learned that there aren’t many acceptable sacrifices, there’s only one. From Abraham they had learned that it is a sacrifice which God Himself will provide that will be satisfactory. And from the Passover, they learned that it had to be a lamb without blemish and without spot. They had made sacrifices their whole life. There should be no shock in just looking at the general tenor of the Old Testament that a sacrifice was going to be required. They should have known that. And Jesus had been introduced to them by John the Baptist with these words, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
If they knew Psalm 2, they would have understood the rage of His enemies against Him because it’s there. If they knew Zechariah 13 they would have understood that He would be deserted by His friends. If they knew Zechariah 11 verse 12, they would have known that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. If they understood the implications of Numbers 21 in the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness, they would have been able to see perhaps in some fashion that the Son of Man would eventually be lifted up, the picture of the cross. If they would have understood Psalm 34:20, they would have known that none of His bones would be broken on the cross. If they understood Psalm 22 verse 18, they would have known that His clothes would be gambled for. If they understood Psalm 69:21 they would have known that He was being given vinegar to drink by witless people who were fulfilling a specific prophecy. If they knew Psalm 22:1 they would have understood the cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” If they understood Psalm 22 and verse 31, they would have known the cry, “It is finished,” for it is in that Psalm. Zechariah 12:10 talks about the spear thrust into His side. Psalm 16 talks about His resurrection. And Psalm 110 even talks about His ascension into heaven.
So many specific details surrounding His death were clearly in the Old Testament. And surely they hadn’t lived their whole lives without being exposed to Isaiah 53, the greatest of all messianic, Old Testament passages. The servant substitute, the servant sacrifice who provides redemption for sinners, who is wounded for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities.
He went to the cross because that was the whole point. (end of quote)
And it’s even in the New Testament in places we often can’t see it.
At 12, He tells His parents that He had to be about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49)
In Mark, right after Peter makes his great confession that Jesus is actually the Messiah, Jesus told them not to say anything yet. Then He began to teach them that the journey of the Messiah might be different than what they had imagined. He tried to get it in their heads many times, but to no avail!
Mark 8:31, 9:31 and 10:33
A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Can you imagine reading these scriptures and eventually hearing His Father’s voice, saying, “That’s YOU”? Much of Jesus’ suffering had to be mental and emotional, knowing what was awaiting Him!
The way we celebrate Christmas is focused on food, family, trees, presents and get-togethers, and the baby Jesus. The world outside of God is OK with the baby when we place him among angels, shepherds, wise men and animals, all accompanied by good music. Phrases like “peace to men of good will” and “light of the world” are Biblical but can seem soft and sweet and rather generic as standalone verses.
Jesus was born that we may have life, but the way He would do that was through His death.
So let’s celebrate like mad–go to parties, have fun, exchange the presents. But let’s remember that our joy is because of something more than a baby’s birth. Everyone else on the planet is born, and eventually dies. This child was born to die. For us. To meet our biggest need. Because He loved us. There are many reasons to take joy this season. This truth of our Suffering Servant Messiah is the deepest reason of all.