Isaiah 53:4-6

The men of New York's Ladder Company 6 call Josephine Harris their 'guardian angel.' On September 11, 2001 she was a 60 year old, overweight, grandmother who worked as a bookkeeper for the Port Authority on the 73
rd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. After a plane controlled by terrorists crashed into her tower she knew she had to get out of her building and so she started down the stairs of stairwell B.

Shortly thereafter, the firefighters of Ladder 6 arrived and started their trek up the stairwell, each of them carrying about 100 pounds of equipment. When they reached the 27
th floor, their building shook as the nearby south tower collapsed. At that point they were ordered to evacuate. On their way down, on the 13th floor, they encountered the slow moving Josephine. She had already trudged down 60 floors and was exhausted. Rather than going by her, they stopped to help her. Bill Butler, the strongest man of ladder 6, put his arm around Josephine to support and guide her. They all encouraged her and urged her to keep going. But she was slowing them down and they eventually slowed to a snail's pace. Finally, when they reached the 4th floor, Josephine sat down and said,

"That's it, I can't go anymore."

The firefighters were frustrated but determined. They were not going to leave her, they were going to try to get her out. It was at that point that the building collapsed around them. The section in the stairwell where they stopped, the small pocket of Stairway B between the second and fourth floors of the building--was the only area spared. If they had moved faster or slower, they certainly would have been crushed and killed by the debris. Later, one of the firefighters, Matt Komorowski said,

"We all thought she was going too slow. But she had the perfect pace."

One of the others added,

"Josephine was like an angel sent from God to stop us so that we could be safe."

That's a great story.

The passage of Scripture before us is like that as well. Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah wrote words about the Messiah that ought to make us stop and take notice—for if we do, they can be instrumental in saving our souls. Isaiah 53 is one of the most wonderful chapters in all of the sacred Scriptures, one that tells us about the sufferings of the Messiah and the way for us to be saved. So let's look at a few of the things it teaches us.

The first thing we should see from Isaiah 53 is that

this is a prediction about the great Messiah who had from long ago been predicted.

Isaiah 53 is all about Jesus and His work. There are at least 6 references in the New Testament to Isaiah 53 and all of them identify the servant spoken of there to Jesus. In the New Testament the apostle's John, Matthew and Peter, as well as Luke point to Isaiah 53 as predicting important points of the life and work of Jesus.

Jesus Himself identified Himself with the servant of Isaiah 53. Shortly before He was arrested He said to His disciples, (Luke 22:36–37)

"But now if you have a purse,
take it, and also a bag;
and if you don't have a sword,
sell your cloak and buy one.
It is written:
'And he was numbered
with the transgressors';
and I tell you that
this must be fulfilled in me.
Yes, what is written about me
is reaching its fulfillment."

Jesus quoted verse 12 of Isaiah 53 and applied it to Himself.

There are people today who teach that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, that His Messianic claims were made up by His disciples after His death. Some will go even farther and say that He never existed. But the only way that you can believe that is if totally disregard the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. Of course, if you do that you can make up anything you want because you've thrown away the only primary and extensive historical accounts of the life of Jesus. But what you have then is just a figment of your imagination—a poor basis for anything.

Jesus was an historical figure. The Old Testament predicted Him. The New Testament records His life and teaching. The historian Josephus mentioned Jesus is his history of the Jewish people. Not only that, but the history of the 1
st three centuries that shows the rapid growth and spread of Christianity until it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In other words, in order to believe that Jesus never existed, you have to close your eyes many, many facts and evidences.

According to the New Testament Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the One for whom the Old Testament saints longed. You'll remember that in Luke 4 Jesus went into the synagogue and was given the scroll of Isaiah. He opened it to Isaiah 61 and read, (Luke 4:18–21)

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. While the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, He said,

"Today this scripture
is fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

But of course, that doesn't prove that Jesus was the Messiah. The key is whether He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. You'll remember John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus and asked Him, (Luke 7:20–23)

"Are you the one who was to come,
or should we expect someone else?"

Luke tells us that when the messengers found Jesus He was curing any who had diseases, casting out evil spirits and giving sight to the blind. Jesus replied to the messengers,

"Go back and report to John
what you have seen and heard:
The blind receive sight,
the lame walk,
those who have leprosy are cured,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the good news is preached to the poor.
Blessed is the man
who does not fall away
on account of me."

Jesus told them to compare what He was doing with what the Old Testament had predicted. There are approximately 300 prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah, the One who would save His people. Jesus' claim to be the Messiah stands or falls on those prophecies and His fulfillment of them.

The first prophecy about the Messiah was given in the Garden of Eden after Adam's sin. In Genesis 3:15 God said to Satan,

"And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

The prophecy given there was that from the offspring of Eve would come someone who would do battle with man's great enemy—the devil and defeat him. Yet in defeating Satan, it was predicted that the seed of the woman would suffer. His deliverance would not come without Him being afflicted.

Hebrews 2:14–16 points to Jesus fulfilling this prophecy and says of Him,

"Since the children have flesh and blood,
he too shared in their humanity
so that by his death
he might destroy him who holds
the power of death—
that is, the devil…"

But of course Genesis 3:15 is just the first of many prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. In Genesis 49:10 Jacob, shortly before he died, predicted that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. As he was blessing His children Jacob said,

"The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his."

In Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 23:5 it was predicted that the Messiah would be from the family line of David. Micah 5:2 foretold that He would be born in the town of Bethlehem. Jeremiah 31:15 predicted that there would be tragedy in the area around Bethlehem regarding children being killed and how Rachel would weep for her children because they were no more. That happened when Herod learned that he had been tricked by the wise men and so he ordered all the male children around Bethlehem two years old and younger to be killed. It was predicted in Hosea 11:1 that the Messiah would spend some time in Egypt, and that God would call His Son from there. Matthew 2:15 tells how Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt fearing that Herod would kill their son.

In our Responsive Reading this morning we read a fairly exact description of what the Messiah's sufferings would be like. A thousand years before Jesus was born David predicted what Jesus would say on the cross, how those who crucified Him would shake their heads and insult Him, and even give their exact words. Psalm 22 also describes Jesus' sufferings on the cross, also how they would pierce His hands and feet, how the Roman soldiers would divide his garments among them cast lots for some of them. Psalm 69:21 predicted what they would give Jesus to drink while He was on the cross. Verse 9 of Isaiah 53 here tells of the Messiah being put death with criminals and having the grave of a rich man, which is exactly what happened when Jesus was crucified between two criminals and buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

The evidence is overwhelming. The Old Testament predicted a Messiah who would save His people. Isaiah 53 is part of that. Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of it. One of the clearest references to this is in Acts 8:32–35 where Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading Isaiah 53:7-8 about the servant being led like a sheep to the slaughter. He didn't understand what he read and said to Philip,

"Tell me, please,
who is the prophet talking about,
himself or someone else?"

Luke continues and says that,

"Philip began with
that very passage of Scripture
and told him the good news about Jesus."

Isaiah 53 is about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited Messiah.

What this means for you is that

you ought to believe what the Old Testament says about Jesus.

All the 300 fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah ought to cause you to believe in Jesus. The Old Testament clearly pointed to Him and His work. The New Testament showed that He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. So I urge you, don't close your eyes to the truth about the Messiah. The Scriptures testify about Him. In John 5:39–40 Jesus said to the Jews,

"You diligently study the Scriptures
because you think that by them
you possess eternal life.
These are the Scriptures
that testify about me,
yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

The Scriptures are compelling enough that they ought to convince you to believe. Don't wait until it's too late. In Luke 16 Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. After he died, the rich man found himself in torment and, seeing Lazarus comforted with Abraham, he said to Abraham, (verses 27-31)

"I beg you, father,
send Lazarus to my father's house,
for I have five brothers.
Let him warn them,
so that they will not also come
to this place of torment.'
Abraham replied,
'They have Moses and the Prophets;
let them listen to them.'
'No, father Abraham,' he said,
'but if someone from the dead goes to them,
they will repent.'
He said to him,
'If they do not listen
to Moses and the Prophets,
they will not be convinced
even if someone rises from the dead."

The famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the Judgment Day and God asked him, "Why didn't you believe in Me?' Russell replied,

"I would say, 'Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!'"

But Russell was totally wrong. There is enough evidence. Look around you. Psalm 19:1–4 says,

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."

But even more than that, look at what the Old and New Testaments say about Jesus.

The problem is not with the evidence, but with your sinful heart. John's gospel, chapter 12:10 is so telling. After Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, many people were believing in Jesus because of that. How did the chief priests react to that—they made plans not only to kill Jesus, but Lazarus as well! That's what Satan's bondage has done to the human heart.

There's enough evidence to believe in Jesus. Believe in Him today.

But what exactly should you believe about Jesus? What does the prophecy of Isaiah 53 tell us?

One of the basic things it teaches us is that the Messiah's work would be substitutionary.

Verses 4 through 6 make this clear. It says,

"Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried
our sorrowsÖ
he was pierced for
our transgressions,
he was crushed for
our iniquities;
the punishment that brought
us peace
was upon him,
and by his wounds
we are healed.
We all, like sheep,
have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity
of us all."

How would the Messiah save His people from their sins? The answer of Isaiah 53 was that He would become their substitute and suffer on their behalf. He would take their place.

Of course this is the way that it had to be. We all know what the wages of sin is. When God told Adam and Eve in the Garden not to sin He said to them, (Genesis 2:16–17)

"You are free to eat
from any tree in the garden;
but you must not eat
from the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil,
for when you eat of it
you will surely die."

Death was the penalty for sin. We see the same thing in Romans 6:23 where the apostle Paul wrote,

"For the wages of sin
is death…"

What this means is for you is that you have no hope of saving yourself. If you're going to pay for your sins there's only one way to do it—by dying eternally. If you do it that's what's required.

We're all sinners. Romans 3:23 says,

"for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God,"

If we're going to be saved we have to look to someone else to save us. We need a Savior. Salvation out of our hands. As Jonah declared, (Jonah 2:9)

"Salvation comes from the LORD."

The Old Testament people knew this. The whole Mosaic sacrificial system pointed to the coming Messiah and His sufferings and death. (Hebrews 9 & 10) Many were blood sacrifices that pointed to the work of the Messiah. Leviticus 16:15–16 is typical. It says that Aaron,

"shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it
as he did with the bull's blood:
He shall sprinkle it
on the atonement cover and in front of it.
In this way he will make atonement
for the Most Holy Place
because of the uncleanness
and rebellion of the Israelites,
whatever their sins have been."

Leviticus 16 continues, (verses 20–21)

"When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place,
the Tent of Meeting and the altar,
he shall bring forward the live goat.
He is to lay both hands
on the head of the live goat
and confess over it
all the wickedness
and rebellion of the Israelites—
all their sins—
and put them on the goat's head."

The Old Testament sacrificial system was about substitutionary atonement. Many of the sacrifices clearly pointed to the One was going to come and die in their place.

This means that

none of us should trust in our works to get to heaven.

Imagine a sinner arriving at the gates of heaven and saying to God,

"But I've done a lot more good things than bad things?"

That wouldn't cut it. The wages of sin is death.

Or imagine someone saying,

"But I've really turned my life around and for years I've done good work after good work for many years."

That wouldn't cut it either. Doing good works doesn't satisfy the curse of sin. In Romans 3:20 the apostle Paul wrote,

"no one will be declared righteous
in his sight by observing the law;
rather, through the law
we become conscious of sin."

Or as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:15–16

"We who are Jews by birth
and not 'Gentile sinners'
know that a man is not justified
by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too,
have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law,
because by observing the law
no one will be justified."

Isaiah 53 taught that the Messiah's work would be substitutionary, which was fulfilled in Jesus dying for His people.

The second thing we should note is that Isaiah 53 repeats the fact that

God was the One that punished the servant.

Verse 4 says that He was,

"stricken by God,
smitten by him,
and afflicted."

In verse 6 we are told that,

"and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."

Verse 10 reads,

"It was the Lord's will to crush him
and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life
a guilt offering…"

How could this be? We know that the Father loves His Son. At the baptism of Jesus we read, (Matthew 3:17)

"And a voice from heaven said,
'This is my Son,
whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.'"

On the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter suggested putting up three shelters, one for Moses, one for Elijah and one for Jesus, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, (Matthew 17:5)

"This is my Son,
whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.
Listen to him!"

The Father loves the Son so very dearly. Why then was Jesus afflicted by the Father, why was He smitten by Him? Why would Jesus have to cry out on the cross,

"My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?"

The answer is because it was the only way for human beings to be saved.

You'll recall that when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and contemplated His death on the cross, He said to the Father, (Matthew 26:39)

"My Father, if it is possible,
may this cup be taken from me."

Jesus asked if there was any other way for human beings to be saved for the Father to take that cup of suffering from Him. But there was no other way. In order for human beings to be saved justice had to be done. God's anger against sin had to be satisfied. Sin had to be punished. If we were going to be saved it had to be punished in God's own Son. So God had to afflict His beloved. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

"God made him
who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God."

As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:32,

"He who did not spare his own Son,
but gave him up for us all"

John Murray writes, (Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, p. 77)

"Here we are the spectators of a wonder the praise and glory of which eternity will not exhaust. It is the Lord of glory, the Son of God incarnate, the God-man, drinking the cup given him by the eternal Father, the cup of woe and indescribable agony. We almost hesitate to say so. But it must be said. It is God in our nature forsaken of God. The cry from the accursed tree evinces nothing less than the abandonment that is the wages of sin."

This means two things.

First, this means that your sin has put you in great danger.

Your sin must be paid for. God cannot simply overlook your sin. The question is: who is going to pay for your sin, you or Jesus?

If God did not spare His own Son, if He, directed by the dictates of His perfect justice—had to punish the sin of His people in His Son—how do you think you'll escape if you reject Jesus? You cannot.

God hates sin. Sin alienates from God. Sin leads to death. It will lead to your eternal death unless you go to Jesus.

Secondly, this shows how much God loves sinners.

Here we have the love of the Father illustrated. Jesus was smitten by Him and afflicted. Why? John 3:16 explains,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

Go to Him today. He will accept you. As Jesus said in John 6:37,

"whoever comes to me
I will never drive away."

Go to Him to have Him wash away your sins and give you new life. Ask Him to save you and He surely will.