Jesus, the Suffering Servant (Part 2)
In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the prophet Isaiah paints a picture of the Suffering Servant who would rescue God’s people from judgment and exile, and restore them to their Lord by bearing their sins and giving them a share in his ultimate victory. Over 700 years before Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, Isaiah described what kind of savior God would send to his people.
So let us read this passage, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and ask ourselves, “What kind of Savior did Isaiah promise that Jesus would be?” (continued)
3. He will be an exalted Savior. In other words, he will be crowned with great dignity and honor, placed in a high and powerful place, and held in high esteem. Isaiah makes this very clear at the beginning of the passage: “He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” But then how do we make sense of what follows? For in the next few verses, Isaiah says that the Servant will sustain injuries so great that he scarcely looks human anymore (52:14); he will be quite unattractive and no one will find him beautiful (53:2); he will be scorned and spurned by men, and well-acquainted with sorrow and sickness (53:3); and he will be humiliated and punished as if he were a wicked criminal (53:4-9). How can the same man be destined for both exaltation and utter humiliation? The answer is that, in the wisdom of God, his exaltation occurs through his humiliation and suffering. Paradoxically, the very reason why he is worthy to be exalted over his people is that he is willing to be humiliated for his people. Through the self-giving love that he demonstrates in being “crushed for our iniquities” and “wounded for our transgressions” (53:5), he shows himself to be worthy of our worship and love and affection. He is not exalted in spite of his humiliation; he is exalted because of it.
4. He will be a global Savior. Isaiah 52:15 says that the Servant will “sprinkle many nations.” The precise nature of this sprinkling is hard to ascertain for sure, since we are not told what the nations will be sprinkled with (water or blood, for example). In the Old Testament, sprinkling with blood or water (or even with oil) is usually done by a priest, in order to cleanse someone (or something) or to set a person apart for service to the Lord. Whatever Isaiah is talking about here, what is clear is that “many nations” are receiving this sprinkling. What the Servant does for Israel, he does not do only for Israel, but all the nations of the world receive the benefits of his suffering and subsequent exaltation. Isaiah had already spoken of the Savior’s global mission back in 49:6, when the Lord said to his Servant, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” The Lord says that it would be beneath the Servant for him only to suffer for the people of Israel; no, his great worth and magnificence demands that his sacrifice extend to the ends of the earth. The Servant is a global Savior!