Day 17      Isaiah 53 ... The Wounded Healer

New Testament writers leave no doubt as to the identity of the suffering servant: at least ten times they apply Isaiah's four songs directly to Jesus. In one instance, Philip corrected an Ethiopian official who had wondered if the suffering servant referred to an ancient prophet (Acts 8:26-35).

Isaiah 53 reads almost like an eyewitness account of Jesus' last days on earth. The physical description - the Bible contains no other physical description of Jesus - is shocking. The servant "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him"; he was "like one from whom men hide their faces." As this chapter foretells, Jesus did not open his mouth to answer his accusers at his trial. He left no descendants. He was cut off in the prime of life and, thanks to a gracious friend, was buried in a rich man's tomb. But that was not the end. After three days he saw "the light of life".

According to Isaiah, the servant died for a very specific purpose: "He was pierced for our transgressions." He took on pain for the sake of others, four our sakes. His wounds, an apparent defeat, made possible great victory. His death sealed a future triumph when all that is wrong on earth will be set right. Significantly, the book of Isaiah does not end with the suffering servant image, but goes on to describe that wonderful life in a new heaven and new earth. But the time of travail was a necessary first step, for the servant absorbed in himself the punishment that was due for all the evils of the world.

Isaiah 53 forms an underlying foundation for much New Testament theology. In addition, these detailed prophecies, recorded many centuries before Jesus' birth, offer convincing proof that God was revealing his plan for the ages through the ancient prophets. He had not permanently severed his covenant with the Jews. Rather, out of Jewish roots - King David's own stock - he would bring forth a new king, a king like no other, to reclaim all the earth.

Point to Ponder: Why did Jesus choose to come in the form described here?