The Man of Sorrows - Isaiah 53

The following article contains excerpts from "A Book of Bible Study"

by Joseph F. Harwood.


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Isaiah 53 prophesies about some of the sufferings that Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, would endure according to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). As we study Isaiah 53, we should also bear in mind that John 12:24-26, Romans 8:17-18, and other Scriptures reveal that every believer will share in the sufferings of Christ, in order that we may also share in His eternal glory.


The first thing that comes to mind for most of us when we consider the sufferings of Christ are persecutions. In addition to persecutions, there are also other aspects of the sufferings of Christ recorded in the Scriptures.


A verse by verse study of Isaiah 53 gives us further insight into some of the things that Jesus suffered during His life on earth. As we consider each of these aspects of His sufferings, we might also think about how these sufferings may have been, or could yet be, experienced in our lives in some measure as God’s people. Beginning in verse 2 we read: 


For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately
form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. (Isaiah 53:2)


The words “like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground” could speak of one who comes to faith in Christ, who is born from the dry ground of very humble beginnings where many of the opportunities and benefits available to others are kept out of reach for them, according to the plan of God for their lives. Some believers will experience this aspect of Christ’s sufferings. 


The words “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him,  nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” are clear and easily understood. There was no impressive quality in Jesus’ physical appearance, and looking at Him people saw nothing of what the world considers to be attractive or desirable. 


Many of us may feel about ourselves that God has made us to be unattractive, with nothing in our appearance that others would find desirable. If this is the case with us, then God has ordained that we would suffer in this way, and through this experience we share in this aspect of the sufferings of Christ. From Isaiah 53:2 we see that Jesus knew what it was like to experience this same kind of suffering. 


In the next verse we read: 


He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)


Once again the meaning of the text is clear. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. Some of this rejection could have come from what we read in verse 2, which speaks of Him having nothing in His appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Those of us considered by the world to be unattractive are often rejected, and we will know what it is like to be “one from whom men hide their face”, or one from whom others turn away. Jesus’ ultimate rejection was the rejection that He suffered for His message that He is the Son of God, and that no one can come to God the Father except by Him (John 14:6).  


Finally in verse 3, the words “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” speak volumes about how the Scriptures in both the Old and the New Testaments characterize the life of Jesus Christ. As we have seen from the Scriptures previously, God has ordained that all of us as believers must follow Jesus in His death, experiencing reflections of His sufferings in our own lives in order that we may also share in His glory. Therefore we also will experience in some measure, as God determines for each of us, what it is to be a man or woman of sorrows, who is acquainted with grief. 


Continuing in Isaiah 53 we read: 


Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)


Have you, Christian, ever given of yourself, your time, or your financial resources to help someone else who was going through hard times which brought great sorrow into their lives? If so, you have sacrificed something of yourself in order to help carry someone else’s sorrows, as Jesus did, and in this respect you experience a share in His sufferings and sacrifice for the benefit of others. 


Notice also in the last part of verse 4 the words “yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”. Many times when people see others going through great suffering or difficulty in their lives, they may consider that those enduring the difficulty are actually being stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted for some sin in their lives. 


Let us be careful not make the same mistake that Job’s three friends made when they judged Job’s troubles to be the result of sin in his life. They had no idea what the cause of Job’s sufferings was about, and neither did Job. In the final analysis, Job was shown to have a greater understanding of the ways of God than his friends when God rebuked his friends, saying that they had not spoken of Him what is right as His servant Job had done (Job 42:7-9). 


If we see a fellow believer suffering some wrenching trial or difficulty, let us not be hasty in judging their situation to be the result of sin in their lives. Without question, sin always results in God’s discipline in the life a believer (Hebrews 12:5-13), and in some cases there may be a clear connection between sin in one’s life and their present troubles. However, where there is no clear connection to some known sin, it could very well be that what they are enduring is a share in the sufferings of Christ, as God has ordained for them.


Continuing in Isaiah 53 we read: 


But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being
upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:5-6)


Have you, Christian, ever born the consequences of someone else’s wrongdoing? If so, this reflection of the sufferings of Christ is shared in your life, even though in so much smaller measure than the sufferings He endured. It could then be said of you that you were crushed for someone else’s iniquity, and that the punishment that brought them well-being was placed upon you. 


Continuing further we read: 


He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open 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
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke
was due
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9)


In verse 7 we see that Jesus took the suffering that His Father had ordained for Him, suffering for the transgressions of others, silently and without complaint. This is a virtue that few of us will ever possess. Most of us complain bitterly when unjust or undeserved suffering enters our lives. Even when we fail to take it silently and without complaint as Jesus did, we still share in His sufferings when we experience unjust suffering because of the wrongdoing of others. 


In verse 8 we see that Jesus was falsely accused and judged harshly. When we are falsely accused and judged harshly by others, we experience a share in this aspect of His sufferings, even if only in a very small measure when compared to the sufferings He endured. The latter part of the verse speaks of Jesus saying: “And as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of My people”. God has ordained that those martyred for the cause of Christ will share in this aspect of His sufferings. 


It is also interesting to note again in verse 8 the phrase, “And as for His generation”, which speaks of Jesus’ descendants. Jesus never married and had children. It is a great sorrow in the lives of some believers that God keeps marriage out of reach for them. Others marry but never have the children they long for. This aspect too of Christ’s life is a suffering shared in the lives of those believers who desire a godly marriage and children. However God, according to His own plan and purpose for their lives withholds these things, choosing rather to lead them in other paths. 


Verse 9 again speaks of the unjust treatment that Jesus received, being assigned a grave “with wicked men”. Crucifixion was the punishment given to guilty criminals of that time, and not treatment deserved by the blameless Son of God. Even with all of our faults and shortcomings, when we endure unjust accusation and undeserved suffering, we experience a share in the sufferings of Christ in some measure. 


In the following verse we read: 


But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him
to grief;
If He would render Himself as
a guilt offering,
He will see His
He will prolong His
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10)


In Isaiah 53:10 we see that it was God’s will to “crush” His Son, “putting Him to grief”. When we consider Isaiah 53:10, together with the teaching of John 12:23-26 and Romans 8:17, we see that it is also God’s will to “crush” us and to “put us to grief”, in some measure, however small when compared to Jesus’ grief and sufferings, bringing about in our lives a share in His sufferings, which God has ordained will be the necessary path to our share in Jesus’ eternal glory. 


Concluding this passage from Isaiah 53 we read: 


As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and
be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12)


These verses speak of the sacrifice that Jesus made of Himself, the sinless Lamb of God who laid down His life for the sins of “many” (verse 12), so that they would be found acceptable in the sight of God. Certainly our death will justify no one in the sight of God, but reflections of Christ’s sufferings experienced in our lives are for us as believers a share in His sufferings, even if only in some small measure.  


In verse 11 we read: “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied”. This Scripture reveals to us that Jesus was satisfied when He saw what was accomplished through the sufferings He endured according to His Father’s will; He was satisfied with the “many” who were given to Him by His Father. (Consider also John 6:37). 


As we consider our share in Christ’s sufferings according to our Father’s will for our lives, we can recall from Paul’s teaching that now during this present time we know and we understand only in part, but the day is coming when we will know and understand fully what God was accomplishing through the sufferings we endured (1 Corinthians 13:9, 12). In that day, we too will be satisfied, and we will be overjoyed as we share in the glory of our Lord for eternity (1 Peter 4:13). 



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