Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.

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.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth. 

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:1-9

 

This whole chapter is a key player in the Bible. Bits get quoted in the New Testament in John, Matthew, Romans to name but three, and it presents us with the clearest explanation of sin and atonement. But before we jump too far too soon, let's talk basics. Isaiah's poem is at the heart of his book and it points to the life of Jesus, to the salvation of his people. And while it was intended to be relevant to Isaiah's contemporaries, the truths echo across the centuries.

So what's the deal with this Messiah? Firstly it's clear that he comes not because he's bored or lonely, but because we need him: he comes for 'our infirmities… our sorrows'. It's foolish for us to think that he deserved what happened: he wasn't 'stricken by God'. The truth is harder for us to bear, but we must take it in: 'he was crushed for our iniquities'. It was our sin, our wrongdoing, our wanderings away from God's laws that he paid for. We accumulated the bill and he was the one that paid. What's more, that payment bought something very special: 'peace', healing, salvation. 

But there's more to say, and Isaiah puts it brilliantly. We're all guilty, we all 'like sheep have gone astray', and we all are in debt to God. 

This whole chapter has so much to say. Read it through slowly. It's impossible to deny the links between our sin and Jesus' suffering, between his sacrifice and our salvation. 

So far in this weekly Lent devotional one word has cropped up more than most: sin. It’s been used 28 times. Isn’t that a bit excessive? 

We can’t talk about Jesus without talking about why he came. And we can’t talk about that without talking about the very reason why he died; sin.  

Why did Jesus have to die? Because of you. Because of me. Because he takes sin personally. 

Makes you want to live a bit better right now, doesn’t it?

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