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Because it is nearly Easter we will jump ahead in our meditations on Isaiah and focus on a few verses in Isaiah 53. Here the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ is clearly predicted.

Isaiah says of him:

‘He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we esteemed him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But 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’ [verses 3-5].

In verse 3 Isaiah speaks of the human rejection and despising of Jesus Christ. He also speaks of Christ’s grief and his suffering. In verse 4 Isaiah introduces the concept that it was our griefs and our sorrows that Jesus Christ ‘took up’ and carried. He then returns to the human misunderstanding of this One who suffered: that his suffering was due to the just and heavy hand of God upon him. In verse 5 Isaiah lays out the real truth of the matter – that this suffering of the Christ was not due to his own sin, but to ours:

This piercing right through unto death was because of our transgressions.
This crushing out of the life was due to our iniquities.
This seeming punishment was not on his own account, but on our account, to remove the wrath of God from us and to bring us to peace with God.
This terrible wounding of the Christ, this obvious severing from the Father, healed the separation that existed between us and God.

Why, we might ask, was this necessary? Isaiah explains in verse 6:

‘All we, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way’.

That human lostness that Isaiah depicted so poignantly in Chapter One is here summed up in a few words: we have gone astray from God; we have each done our own thing instead of doing and being what God created us to be and to do. Way back in Genesis 3 we rebelled against God and his Word; we turned our backs on him and on our true identity. This rejection of God and all the individual sins that flow from it, incur God’s judgement, incur God’s wrath, and involve us in a disconnection from God in which there is no possibility of our ever recovering and returning.

Sin has cut us off from God, and continues to cut us off from God [Isaiah 59:2]. And it will do so forever unless God himself intervenes and somehow reverses the judgement under which we exist.

That is what God did in this death of his Son, the Christ:

‘… the LORD has lain on him the iniquity of us all’ [Isaiah 53:6b].

He was oppressed, he was afflicted, he was slaughtered, he was judged, he was stricken by God [verses 7,8] … because of, for, the transgressions of God’s people. God put all of our sin and its guilt upon him, along with all of the condemnation, all of the judgement, all of the punishment and penalty and all of his wrath.

There is none left for us to carry, none left for us to bear: no sin still held or ever to be held against us; no guilt; no condemnation, no judgement, no punishment, no penalty, no wrath.

To achieve this redemption, this forgiveness, this acquittal, this reconciliation, this peace ‘it was the LORD’s will to crush him’ [verse 10, NIV], ‘it pleased the LORD to bruise him’ [KJV]. This will, this good purpose and pleasure of God broke forth triumphant and victorious in the hand of the Christ, the suffering Servant of the Lord.

This is God’s answer to our sin. This is the message of the cross. This is the work of the Christ.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014, 2023