We return to our Isaiah theme for Good Friday and read a devotion from Gospel Handles: Old Testament Lessons.
Psalm 22 or Psalm 31
Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9
John 18:1–19:42 or John 19:17–30
Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.
We stand here in the presence of one of the greatest Gospel passages in the Bible. [Isaiah 52:13–53:12.] The insight it provides into God’s saving action through Christ is comprehensive, penetrating to the very core of the Gospel. What is so remarkable about the passage is that, like Psalm 22, it was written before the fact. This pericope reads like a news report, with an analysis of that news thrown in for good measure, and we have to remind ourselves that this is just a prophecy! Who but the Author of the Gospel, God Himself, could provide Isaiah with such graphic and profound foresight into the Christ-event and its significance?
First, what was the situation prompting God’s remedy? Isaiah tells us in 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way.” So God sends His Servant, Jesus, to solve our problem.
What was this Servant like? The picture Isaiah provides seems to be a conflicting one. Isaiah flits back and forth between tributes to the Servant’s beauty, wisdom, and strength, on the one hand, and descriptions of His homeliness, rejection, and grief, on the other hand. In one breath, Isaiah says, “He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (52:13). In the next breath, he says, He has “no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men” (53:2–3). This man, whom “we esteemed . . . not” (53:3) is given “a portion with the many” and divides “the spoil with the strong” (53:12). . . .
What emerges clearly from this play of sunlight and shadows in the text is that God’s Servant is unquestionably meek and righteous. “Like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (53:7), and “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth” (53:9).
What did God’s “righteous . . . servant” (53:11) do? He assumed our sins. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). God made His soul “an offering for guilt” (53:10). He “was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many” (53:12). And He assumed the punishment for our sins. “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” (53:5). He was “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (53:7). He was “stricken for the transgression of my people” (53:8).
Was that all He suffered? By no means. Pain and death were a big part of His suffering, but that wasn’t all. Not only was He “rejected by men” (53:3). He was also “smitten by God, and afflicted” (53:4). “It was the will of the Lord to crush him” (53:10). God “numbered” Him “with the transgressors” (53:12). God “made His grave with the wicked” (53:9). In the language of St. Paul, God made Him “to be sin for us” and God made Him to be “a curse for us.” To put it simply, Jesus suffered hell, too—our hell.
What did all this mean? “With His wounds we are healed” (53:5). “Out of the anguish of his soul [God] shall see and be satisfied” (53:11). By our “knowledge” of Him “shall the righteous one, [God’s] servant, make many to be accounted righteous” (53:11). Satisfied that His Servant’s sacrifice counts as our sacrifice, God justifies us. In a word, we are “saved.”
Devotional reading is adapted from Gospel Handles: Old Testament Lessons, pages 138–40. Text © 2014 Francis C. Rossow. Published by Concordia Publishing House.
Scripture quotations from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ® 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.