Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked wand with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Throughout history the sufferer has been the astonishment and the stumbling-block of humanity. The ancient barbarians simply got rid of sufferers in their societies - simply because they did not want to look at them in their weakness. More civilized cultures have decidedly been more merciful with them; but sufferers have always been a problem for "big picture ideologies" of philosophers, and a severe test for the "everything is great" faith of religious people. It is not natural or easy for people to see any good or profit in suffering. In reality it is the contrary that is true. The reality is that mankind struggles with shame and fear of the suffering, or worse the exploitation of the sufferer. Human suffering is easier processed as a tragedy, societal failure, a hindrance to moving on, but most definitely a fate to be avoided in one's life at all costs.
However, for Christian followers the Bible gives us a much different perspective of the sufferer, and of suffering. The suffering component to Christian faith is currently not one of the Top Ten on Sermons.com, nor is it on the New York Times best seller list for inspirational reading. Here's why. The Bible does not hide suffering behind prosperity. In fact, it pushes the reader to brace and embrace suffering as part of the Christian journey in this life. That is why sermons on suffering are not trending; it is not a truth that we remember, pursue or hold dear to our hearts. We hate suffering and do just about anything to avoid it - yet there is real suffering all around us. Remember Jesus saying to His disciples...
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you (John 15:18).
The apostle Paul tells his young protégé Timothy...
All who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3).
For the sake of Jesus Christ it is given to you that you should not only believe in Him but that also suffer for Him. (Philippians 1:29).
Peter, a personal friend and disciple of Jesus explained...
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. What credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But, when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you and example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither did deceit come from His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return: when He suffered He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:19-23).
What we learn from Jesus (if we choose to learn from Him) is that in fact, Jesus Himself learned obedience through the things that He suffered; and if that is true of Him, how much more should it be of us? (PAUSE)
Here's the thing. The Bible does not tell us go out of our way or to seek suffering. We know in the history of the Church that in the name of Christianity some have done that, considering martyrdom or self-abasing, no matter how contrived, to be the highest good - not necessary not required. But, it is also very real and very true - God says that suffering will be a part of the experience of the faithful believers in this world. Jesus said it clearly - "In this world you will have trouble." So it is inevitable. It is part of God’s plan for the development and growth of our faith. But not all suffering is bad.
Suffering can come to believers and followers of Jesus in many forms and from many faces. In our world today - there is actual real-time persecution in many sectors of the world. Other softer persecutions such as malicious hate speech, social media bullying and societal and secular academia rejection do exist because of our choice of faith (Christianity). There are also trials and testing from the Lord, that bring elements of suffering with and for others in the faith community, and then of course there is simply the natural cost of serving a righteous God in this unrighteous world. It is important to understand that these kind of sufferings are a good and faithful service to God, a self-sacrificing service. When we do this we take up our cross, and we have fellowship with Him in His sufferings.
The visual of the suffering of our Lord is nowhere more tragically displayed than in the prophecy of Isaiah, Chapter 52:13-15, 53:1-12. Isaiah's description is of the ultimate Suffering from the ultimate Suffering Servant. Isaiah himself does not fully identify Him—that reveal would have to await until the fulfillment of time when Christ (Emmanuel), came to us - for us - and suffered, the just for the unjust. For us who know Christ we can see this as the actual prediction of His sufferings. This is the primary meaning of Isaiah's text.
Big Point: Our relatable connection to this kind of suffering is that it becomes the example for all suffering that is accomplished in service and love of others. Just as Peter says, Jesus suffered, leaving us an example of how we should suffer to the glory of God.
The passage is divided into five stanzas of three verses each. The Five Three of 53. Do you see what I did there? Ok...
The first line of each of the sections gives a summary of that section. We will start and finish this next week.