Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 1, Lesson 2

Lesson Two

The Messiah: The Ultimate Servant

Text: Isaiah 53

God promised Abraham, the father of all Israelites, that a descendant would bless all mankind (see Genesis 12:3b; 22:18; and Galatians 3:16). The Israelite nation looked for this promised person [in the Hebrew language, the Messiah, or in the Greek language, the Christ].

Isaiah 53 was written to Jewish people who lived in Babylonian exile. In periods of defeat and suffering, the Jewish longing for God to send the promised Messiah intensified. Isaiah declared that the horrors of the destruction of Jerusalem and of exile in Babylon had not canceled God's promise to send the Messiah. Isaiah 53 describes this promised deliverer.

Carefully note and consider these things about the promised Messiah.

  1. He would not possess physical charm or features to make him physically attractive. His physique would not make him a charismatic leader (verses 2,3).
    1. He would be like a desert sprout shooting up from a root.
    2. His physical appearance would not attract anyone to him.
    3. Quite the opposite would be true: the "men" [likely a reference to people who were not Jews] would despise him.
    4. The dominant physical presentation of the Messiah would remind people more of the weakness of pain and grief than a powerful physical presence.
    5. The end result: they would not respect him.

    Christians often feel such love and adoration for Jesus that we are blind (a) to what a distinct minority we are and (b) to the fact that most people do not look at Jesus with love and respect as do we. Because we isolate ourselves, we act and think as if we were the majority. Because we respect what God did in Jesus, we act and think as if everyone else does also.

  2. Specific reasons would make the Messiah unattractive to people who were not Jews (verses 4-6 ).
    1. He would come to bear the grieves and sorrows of the exiles [and of all mankind].
    2. It would be obvious that he was an abused person who suffered.
    3. The disobedience and evil of the exiles [and of all mankind] necessitated his being wounded and crushed.
    4. He would be punished and whipped for the failures of the exiles [Israel and all mankind] in order that they [we] could be healed.
    5. This was necessary because they were like sheep that wandered away from the shepherd.

    Read and reflect on the arrest, interrogation, trials, and crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 26 and 27; Mark 14 and 15; Luke 22 and 23; John 18 and 19). The person in the first century who did not understand what God was doing saw nothing attractive in those events. Picturing the bloody, beaten, abused dead body of an executed man is attractive to no one. To Christians that body is attractive only because it reveals the depth of God's love.

  3. The Messiah would endure such treatment voluntarily (verses 7-9).
    1. In this abusive treatment, he would not defend himself, complain, or try to escape.
    2. To oppress him, to judge him, he would be killed, but not for his own failures.
    3. He would be killed for the failures and disobedience of Israel [and mankind].
    4. Even though he would not be a violent or deceitful person, he would be treated like a wicked man.

    The most striking commentary on this prophecy is found in Peter's statement to Christian servants who suffered for their commitment to Christ. Read 1 Peter 2:21-25.

  4. While this description of the Messiah would not thrill the exiles, it thrilled God (verse 10-12).
    1. The Lord [here God] would be pleased for the Messiah to endure such treatment.
      1. This certainly does not suggest that God finds sadistic joy in seeing anyone unjustly suffer. A primary point of Old Testament emphasis: God is the champion of victims of injustice.
      2. God would be pleased because the Messiah would endure suffering and death to transform God's objectives into God's accomplishments.
      3. God would show His pleasure by exalting the Messiah as the Righteous One.
      4. God could use the sufferings and death of the servant Messiah to justify sinful Israel [and mankind] because the Messiah accepted the guilt of those who deserved to be punished.
      5. Because the Messiah would pour himself out in death, God would make him great.

Consider this:

  1. Only a servant totally committed to his master could accept a mission of total self-sacrifice.
  2. Only a Messiah totally committed to God's purposes and objectives could commit to such sacrifice.
  3. Only a servant could be the Messiah.
  4. The attitude of the servant Messiah: no cost was too great to allow God to work through him to achieve God's objectives.

A thought for you to reflect on: what controlling attitude must a Christian have for God to achieve His purposes through that person's life? If it was necessary for the Messiah to be a servant, how important is it for a Christian to be a servant?

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 1, Lesson 2

Copyright © 1999, 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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