"... yet we considered him punished by God ..." (Isaiah 53:4)Who considered the Messiah, Jesus, punished by God? Given all we know today about Jesus, no one would say this or even think it. Would they? But we have the benefit of the whole of Scripture. One of the techniques I like to use when I am contemplating a verse from the Bible is to pretend I only know what was known at the time or for the time the verse is speaking. It is actually not as easy as it may sound.
Here in Isaiah this verse is part of what is known as the "Suffering Servant" songs. It was a prophecy or preview of the suffering of the coming Messiah: the Servant of God. Jesus the Messiah. Some have referred to Isaiah 53 as the "Gospel in the Old Testament" because it presents the heart of the Gospel or the "good news" about Jesus the Messiah as clearly as is presented in the New Testament. In fact Isaiah is quoted many times in the New Testament.
Remember the book of Isaiah was written more than 700 years before Jesus lived on this earth. So Isaiah is giving us a preview of what people will think about the Messiah while he was living on this earth. As they watch him suffer they will see it as a punishment from God. It was not an uncommon view of Jesus' day. Most people viewed diseases and tragedies as punishment for a person or their parents' sin. Just read the Book of Job in the Old Testament or read what people thought about a blind beggar (John 9:1) in the New Testament. They would see the horrible suffering of Jesus culminating at the cross as the justice of God. They would have assumed that Jesus must have sinned. The inaccuracy of this thought is immediately given in the very next verse. I find it rather amazing that God gives Isaiah and his people a preview of how they will view the Messiah's suffering and before any of it would even happen God also corrects this mistaken view. This is the grace and mercy of God!
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)In the very scripture they read while Jesus walked this earth they had the answer to their questions about what Jesus had done to deserve such a painful death. In the scrolls read to them in the Synagogue the corrective words from God were clearly given. Jesus didn't deserve a horrible torturous death, they did, we do. Jesus took their punishment, our punishment, to bring peace and healing.
If he fulfilled not justice, I must: if he underwent not wrath, I must to eternity." (John Owen)
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The Cross | What Jesus Did was uploaded by Ricketts Fish to flickr.com on March 15, 2008.