Jehovah Exalts His Messianic Servant
1, 2. (a) Illustrate the situation faced by many Jews in the early part of the first century C.E. (b) What provision had Jehovah made to help faithful Jews recognize the Messiah?
IMAGINE that you are to meet with an important dignitary. The time and the place of your meeting are set. But there is a problem: You do not know what he looks like, and he will be traveling discreetly, without fanfare. How will you recognize him? It would help if you had a detailed description of him.
2 In the early part of the first century C.E., many Jews faced a situation like this. They were expecting the Messiah—the most important man who would ever live. (Daniel 9:24-27; Luke 3:15) But how were faithful Jews to recognize him? Jehovah, by means of the Hebrew prophets, had painted a detailed written portrait of events surrounding the Messiah that would enable discerning ones to identify him unmistakably.
3. What description of the Messiah is provided at Isaiah 52:13–53:12?
3 Among the Hebrew prophecies of the Messiah, perhaps none provide a clearer picture than that recorded at Isaiah 52:13–53:12. Over 700 years in advance, Isaiah described, not the physical appearance of the Messiah, but details that were more significant—the purpose and manner of his suffering and specifics about his death, burial, and exaltation. A consideration of this prophecy and its fulfillment will warm our hearts and strengthen our faith.
“My Servant”—Who Is He?
4. What opinions as to the identity of the “servant” have some Jewish scholars offered, but why do these not match Isaiah’s prophecy?
4 Isaiah has just told of the release of the Jews from exile in Babylon. Now looking ahead to a far greater event, he records Jehovah’s words: “Look! My servant will act with insight. He will be in high station and will certainly be elevated and exalted very much.” (Isaiah 52:13) Just who is this “servant”? Over the centuries, Jewish scholars offered various opinions. Some claimed that he represented the whole nation of Israel during its Babylonian exile. But such an explanation does not match the prophecy. God’s Servant suffers voluntarily. Although innocent, he suffers for the sins of others. This hardly describes the Jewish nation, which went into exile because of its sinful ways. (2 Kings 21:11-15; Jeremiah 25:8-11) Others claimed that the Servant represented the pious elite in Israel and that these suffered in behalf of sinful Israelites. However, during times of affliction in Israel, no one specific group suffered for another.
5. (a) Some Jewish scholars have made what application of Isaiah’s prophecy? (See footnote.) (b) What clear identification of the Servant is given in the Bible book of Acts?
5 Before the advent of Christianity and to some extent during the early centuries of the Common Era, a few Jewish scholars did apply this prophecy to the Messiah. That this is the correct application is seen in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The book of Acts reports that when the Ethiopian eunuch said that he did not know the identity of the Servant of Isaiah’s prophecy, Philip “declared to him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:26-40; Isaiah 53:7, 8) Other Bible books likewise identify Jesus Christ as the Messianic Servant of Isaiah’s prophecy.* As we discuss this prophecy, we will see the undeniable parallels between the one whom Jehovah calls “my servant” and Jesus of Nazareth.
6. How does Isaiah’s prophecy indicate that the Messiah will successfully carry out the divine will?
6 The prophecy begins by describing the ultimate success of the Messiah in carrying out the divine will. The word “servant” indicates that he will submit to God’s will, as a servant does to that of his master. In so doing, he “will act with insight.” Insight is the ability to see into a situation. To act with insight is to act discreetly. Regarding the Hebrew verb here used, one reference work says: “At its heart is the thought of prudent and wise dealing. He who deals wisely will obtain success.” That the Messiah will indeed be successful is seen in that the prophecy says he will “be elevated and exalted very much.”
7. How did Jesus Christ “act with insight,” and how has he been “elevated and exalted very much”?
7 Jesus did “act with insight,” showing understanding of the Bible prophecies that applied to him and being guided by them to do the will of his Father. (John 17:4; 19:30) With what result? Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” (Philippians 2:9; Acts 2:34-36) Then, in 1914 the glorified Jesus was elevated even further. Jehovah exalted him to the throne of the Messianic Kingdom. (Revelation 12:1-5) Yes, he was “elevated and exalted very much.”
‘Staring at Him in Amazement’
8, 9. When the exalted Jesus comes to execute judgment, how will earthly rulers react, and why?
8 How will the nations and their rulers react to the exalted Messiah? If we momentarily skip the parenthetical comment in the second part of verse 14, the prophecy reads: “To the extent that many have stared at him in amazement . . . he will likewise startle many nations. At him kings will shut their mouth, because what had not been recounted to them they will actually see, and to what they had not heard they must turn their consideration.” (Isaiah 52:14a, 15) With these words Isaiah describes, not the Messiah’s initial appearance, but his final confrontation with earthly rulers.
9 When the exalted Jesus comes to execute judgment on this ungodly system of things, earthly rulers will ‘stare at him in amazement.’ True, human rulers will not literally see the glorified Jesus. But they will see the visible evidences of his power as a heavenly Fighter for Jehovah. (Matthew 24:30) They will be forced to turn their consideration to what they have not heard recounted by religious leaders—that Jesus is the Executioner of God’s judgments! The exalted Servant whom they will encounter will act in a way that they do not expect.
10, 11. In what way can it be said that Jesus was disfigured in the first century, and how has this been done today?
10 According to the parenthetical comment in verse 14, Isaiah says: “So much was the disfigurement as respects his appearance more than that of any other man and as respects his stately form more than that of the sons of mankind.” (Isaiah 52:14b) Was Jesus physically disfigured in some way? No. Although the Bible does not give details about what Jesus looked like, the perfect Son of God no doubt had a pleasing appearance and countenance. Evidently, Isaiah’s words refer to the humiliation that Jesus experienced. He boldly exposed the religious leaders of his day as hypocrites, liars, and murderers; and they responded by reviling him. (1 Peter 2:22, 23) They accused him of being a lawbreaker, a blasphemer, a deceiver, a seditionist against Rome. Thus, these false accusers painted an utterly disfigured picture of Jesus.
11 Today the misrepresentation of Jesus continues. Most people picture Jesus as a babe in a manger or as a tragic figure nailed to a cross, with his face distorted in agony under a crown of thorns. Christendom’s clergy have encouraged such views. They have failed to present Jesus as the mighty heavenly King with whom nations will have an accounting. When human rulers confront the exalted Jesus in the near future, they will have to deal with a Messiah who has ‘all authority in heaven and on the earth’!—Matthew 28:18.
Who Will Put Faith in This Good News?
12. What intriguing questions do the words at Isaiah 53:1 raise?
12 After describing the amazing transformation of the Messiah—from ‘disfigured’ to “exalted very much”—Isaiah asks: “Who has put faith in the thing heard by us? And as for the arm of Jehovah, to whom has it been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) These words of Isaiah raise intriguing questions: Will this prophecy be fulfilled? Will “the arm of Jehovah,” representing his ability to exert power, reveal itself and make these words come true?
13. How did Paul show that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus, and what response was there?
13 The answer is unquestionably yes! In his letter to the Romans, Paul quotes Isaiah’s words to show that the prophecy heard and recorded by Isaiah came true in Jesus. The glorification of Jesus after his sufferings on earth was good news. “Nevertheless,” says Paul with reference to the unbelieving Jews, “they did not all obey the good news. For Isaiah says: ‘Jehovah, who put faith in the thing heard from us?’ So faith follows the thing heard. In turn the thing heard is through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:16, 17) Sadly, though, few in Paul’s day put faith in the good news about God’s Servant. Why?
14, 15. Against what backdrop is the Messiah to enter the earthly scene?
14 The prophecy next explains to the Israelites the reasons for the questions recorded in verse 1, and in so doing, sheds light on why many will not accept the Messiah: “He will come up like a twig before [an observer], and like a root out of waterless land. No stately form does he have, nor any splendor; and when we shall see him, there is not the appearance so that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Here we see the backdrop against which the Messiah is to enter the earthly scene. He is to have a lowly start, and to observers he will appear unlikely to amount to anything. Moreover, he is to be like a mere twig, a tender sapling, that grows on the trunk or branch of a tree. He is also to be like a water-dependent root in dry, unpromising soil. And he is not to come with regal pomp and splendor—no robes of royalty nor any sparkling diadems. Instead, his start is to be humble and unpretentious.
15 How well that describes Jesus’ lowly beginning as a human! The virgin Jewess Mary gave birth to him in a stable in a little town known as Bethlehem.* (Luke 2:7; John 7:42) Mary and her husband, Joseph, were poor. About 40 days after Jesus’ birth, they brought the sin offering permitted in the case of the poor, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:6-8) In time, Mary and Joseph settled in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up in a large family, likely in modest circumstances.—Matthew 13:55, 56.
16. How is it true that Jesus had no “stately form” or “splendor”?
16 It seemed that as a human, Jesus did not have his roots in the right soil. (John 1:46; 7:41, 52) Although he was a perfect man and a descendant of King David, his humble circumstances did not impart to him any “stately form” or “splendor”—at least not in the eyes of those who were expecting the Messiah to come from a more impressive background. Spurred on by the Jewish religious leaders, many were led to overlook and even despise him. In the end the crowds saw nothing desirable in the perfect Son of God.—Matthew 27:11-26.
‘Despised and Avoided by Men’
17. (a) What does Isaiah begin to describe, and why does he write in the past tense? (b) Who was it that “despised” and “avoided” Jesus, and how did they do so?
17 Isaiah now begins to describe in detail how the Messiah will be viewed and treated: “He was despised and was avoided by men, a man meant for pains and for having acquaintance with sickness. And there was as if the concealing of one’s face from us. He was despised, and we held him as of no account.” (Isaiah 53:3) Certain that his words will come true, Isaiah writes in the past tense, as if they had already been fulfilled. Was Jesus Christ really despised and avoided by men? Indeed, he was! Self-righteous religious leaders and their followers viewed him as the vilest of humans. They called him a friend of tax collectors and harlots. (Luke 7:34, 37-39) They spit in his face. They hit him with their fists and reviled him. They sneered and jeered at him. (Matthew 26:67) Influenced by these enemies of truth, Jesus’ “own people did not take him in.”—John 1:10, 11.
18. Since Jesus was never sick, how was he “a man meant for pains and for having acquaintance with sickness”?
18 As a perfect man, Jesus did not get sick. Yet, he was “a man meant for pains and for having acquaintance with sickness.” Such pains and sicknesses were not his own. Jesus came from heaven into a sick world. He lived amid suffering and pain, but he did not shun those who were ailing, either physically or spiritually. Like a caring physician, he became intimately acquainted with the suffering of those around him. Moreover, he was able to do what no ordinary human physician can do.—Luke 5:27-32.
19. Whose face was ‘concealed,’ and how did Jesus’ enemies demonstrate that they “held him as of no account”?
19 Nevertheless, Jesus’ enemies viewed him as the ailing one and refused to look upon him with favor. His face was ‘concealed’ from view but not because he hid his face from others. In rendering Isaiah 53:3, The New English Bible uses the phrase “a thing from which men turn away their eyes.” Jesus’ opposers found him so revolting that they, in effect, turned away from him as if he were too loathsome to look upon. They reckoned his worth at no more than the price of a slave. (Exodus 21:32; Matthew 26:14-16) They had less esteem for him than for the murderer Barabbas. (Luke 23:18-25) What more could they have done to demonstrate their low opinion of Jesus?
20. Isaiah’s words offer what comfort to Jehovah’s people today?
20 Jehovah’s servants today can derive much comfort from Isaiah’s words. At times, opposers may disdain faithful worshipers of Jehovah or treat them as if they were of no account. Yet, as was true with Jesus, what really matters is how Jehovah God values us. After all, even though men ‘held Jesus as of no account,’ this certainly did not change his great value in God’s eyes!
“Pierced for Our Transgression”
21, 22. (a) What did the Messiah carry and bear in behalf of others? (b) How did many regard the Messiah, and in what did his suffering culminate?
21 Why did the Messiah have to suffer and die? Isaiah explains: “Truly our sicknesses were what he himself carried; and as for our pains, he bore them. But we ourselves accounted him as plagued, stricken by God and afflicted. But he was being pierced for our transgression; he was being crushed for our errors. The chastisement meant for our peace was upon him, and because of his wounds there has been a healing for us. Like sheep we have all of us wandered about; it was each one to his own way that we have turned; and Jehovah himself has caused the error of us all to meet up with that one.”—Isaiah 53:4-6.
22 The Messiah carried the sicknesses of others and bore their pains. He lifted up their burdens, so to speak, placed them on his own shoulders, and carried them. And since sickness and pain are consequences of mankind’s sinful state, the Messiah carried the sins of others. Many did not understand the reason for his suffering and believed that God was punishing him, plaguing him with a loathsome disease.* The Messiah’s suffering culminated in his being pierced, crushed, and wounded—strong words that denote a violent and painful death. But his death has atoning power; it provides the basis for recovering those who wander about in error and sin, helping them to find peace with God.
23. In what way did Jesus bear the suffering of others?
23 How did Jesus bear the suffering of others? The Gospel of Matthew, quoting Isaiah 53:4, says: “People brought him many demon-possessed persons; and he expelled the spirits with a word, and he cured all who were faring badly; that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He himself took our sicknesses and carried our diseases.’” (Matthew 8:16, 17) By curing those who came to him with various diseases, Jesus, in effect, took their suffering upon himself. And such healings drew on his vitality. (Luke 8:43-48) His ability to heal all kinds of ailments—physical and spiritual—proved that he was empowered to cleanse people from sin.—Matthew 9:2-8.
24. (a) Why did it seem to many that Jesus was “plagued” by God? (b) Why did Jesus suffer and die?
24 Yet, to many it seemed that Jesus was “plagued” by God. After all, he suffered at the instigation of respected religious leaders. Remember, though, that he did not suffer on account of any sins of his own. “Christ suffered for you,” says Peter, “leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness. And ‘by his stripes you were healed.’” (1 Peter 2:21, 22, 24) We were all at one time lost in sin, “like sheep, going astray.” (1 Peter 2:25) Through Jesus, however, Jehovah provided redemption from our sinful state. He caused our error to “meet up with” Jesus, to rest upon him. The sinless Jesus willingly suffered the penalty for our sins. By undeservedly suffering a shameful death on a stake, he made it possible for us to be reconciled to God.
‘He Let Himself Be Afflicted’
25. How do we know that the Messiah suffered and died willingly?
25 Was the Messiah willing to suffer and die? Isaiah says: “He was hard pressed, and he was letting himself be afflicted; yet he would not open his mouth. He was being brought just like a sheep to the slaughtering; and like a ewe that before her shearers has become mute, he also would not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) On the final night of his life, Jesus could have summoned “more than twelve legions of angels” to come to his aid. But he said: “In that case, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must take place this way?” (Matthew 26:53, 54) Instead, “the Lamb of God” offered no resistance. (John 1:29) When the chief priests and the older men falsely accused him before Pilate, Jesus “made no answer.” (Matthew 27:11-14) He did not want to say anything that might interfere with the carrying out of God’s will for him. Jesus was willing to die as a sacrificial Lamb, knowing full well that his death would redeem obedient mankind from sin, sickness, and death.
26. In what way was “restraint” applied by Jesus’ opposers?
26 Isaiah now gives more details of the Messiah’s suffering and humiliation. The prophet writes: “Because of restraint and of judgment he was taken away; and who will concern himself even with the details of his generation? For he was severed from the land of the living ones. Because of the transgression of my people he had the stroke.” (Isaiah 53:8) When Jesus was finally taken by his enemies, these religious opposers applied “restraint” in the way they dealt with him. It was not that they held back from expressing their hatred but that they restrained, or withheld, justice. In its rendering of Isaiah 53:8, the Greek Septuagint says “humiliation” instead of “restraint.” Jesus’ enemies humiliated him by withholding the fair treatment to which even a common criminal was entitled. The trial of Jesus made a mockery of justice. How so?
27. When the Jewish religious leaders were conducting Jesus’ trial, what rules did they ignore, and in what ways did they break God’s Law?
27 In their determination to get rid of Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders broke their own rules. According to tradition, the Sanhedrin could try a capital case only in the hall of hewn stones in the temple precincts, not in the high priest’s house. Such a trial had to be held during the day, not after sundown. And in a capital case, a guilty verdict had to be announced the day following the conclusion of the hearing. Hence, no trials could be held on the eve of a Sabbath or a festival. These rules were all ignored in the case of Jesus’ trial. (Matthew 26:57-68) Even worse, the religious leaders flagrantly broke God’s Law as they handled the case. For example, they resorted to bribery to entrap Jesus. (Deuteronomy 16:19; Luke 22:2-6) They gave heed to bearers of false witness. (Exodus 20:16; Mark 14:55, 56) And they conspired to release a murderer, thereby bringing bloodguilt upon themselves and their land. (Numbers 35:31-34; Deuteronomy 19:11-13; Luke 23:16-25) Hence, there was no “judgment,” no fair trial resulting in a correct, impartial ruling.
28. What did Jesus’ enemies fail to take into account?
28 Did Jesus’ enemies investigate to see who the man on trial before them really was? Isaiah asks a similar question: “Who will concern himself even with the details of his generation?” The word “generation” may refer to one’s descent, or background. When Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin, its members did not take into account his background—that he fulfilled the requirements for the promised Messiah. Instead, they accused him of blasphemy and held him liable to death. (Mark 14:64) Later, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate yielded to pressure and sentenced Jesus to be impaled. (Luke 23:13-25) Thus Jesus, at just 33 1/2 years of age, “was severed,” or cut off, in the midst of his life.
29. How was it that Jesus’ burial was “with the wicked ones” and “with the rich class”?
29 Concerning the Messiah’s death and burial, Isaiah next writes: “He will make his burial place even with the wicked ones, and with the rich class in his death, despite the fact that he had done no violence and there was no deception in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9) How, in his death and burial, was Jesus with the wicked as well as with the rich? On Nisan 14, 33 C.E., he died on the execution stake outside the walls of Jerusalem. Since he was impaled between two evildoers, in a sense his burial place was with the wicked ones. (Luke 23:33) However, after Jesus died, Joseph, a wealthy man from Arimathea, mustered up the courage to ask Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body and bury it. Along with Nicodemus, Joseph prepared the body for burial and then placed it in a newly excavated tomb that belonged to him. (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42) So Jesus’ burial place was also with the rich class.
‘Jehovah Took Delight in Crushing Him’
30. In what sense did Jehovah take delight in crushing Jesus?
30 Next Isaiah says something startling: “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him; he made him sick. If you will set his soul as a guilt offering, he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days, and in his hand what is the delight of Jehovah will succeed. Because of the trouble of his soul he will see, he will be satisfied. By means of his knowledge the righteous one, my servant, will bring a righteous standing to many people; and their errors he himself will bear.” (Isaiah 53:10, 11) How could Jehovah possibly take delight in seeing this faithful servant crushed? Clearly, Jehovah did not personally inflict suffering upon his dear Son. Jesus’ enemies were fully responsible for what they did to him. But Jehovah permitted them to act cruelly. (John 19:11) For what reason? Surely the God of empathy and tender compassion was pained to see his innocent Son suffer. (Isaiah 63:9; Luke 1:77, 78) Jehovah was certainly not displeased in any way with Jesus. Even so, Jehovah took delight in his Son’s willingness to suffer because of all the blessings that would result from it.
31. (a) In what way did Jehovah set Jesus’ soul as “a guilt offering”? (b) After all the trouble that Jesus experienced as a human, what must be particularly satisfying for him?
31 For one thing, Jehovah set Jesus’ soul as “a guilt offering.” Hence, when Jesus ascended back to heaven, he entered Jehovah’s presence bearing the merit of his sacrificed human life as a guilt offering, and Jehovah was pleased to accept it in behalf of all mankind. (Hebrews 9:24; 10:5-14) By means of his guilt offering, Jesus acquired “offspring.” As “Eternal Father,” he is able to give life—eternal life—to those who exercise faith in his shed blood. (Isaiah 9:6) After all the trouble that Jesus went through as a human soul, how satisfying it must be for him to have the prospect of delivering mankind from sin and death! Of course, it must be even more satisfying for him to know that his integrity provided his heavenly Father with an answer to the taunts of His Adversary, Satan the Devil.—Proverbs 27:11.
32. By means of what “knowledge” does Jesus bring “a righteous standing to many,” and to whom does this standing come?
32 Another blessing that results from Jesus’ death is that he brings “a righteous standing to many,” even now. He does so, says Isaiah, “by means of his knowledge.” Evidently, this is knowledge that Jesus acquired by becoming a man and suffering unjustly for his obedience to God. (Hebrews 4:15) Having suffered to the point of death, Jesus was able to provide the sacrifice needed to help others acquire a righteous standing. To whom does this righteous standing come? First, to his anointed followers. Because they exercise faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, Jehovah declares them righteous with a view to adopting them as sons and making them joint heirs with Jesus. (Romans 5:19; 8:16, 17) Then, “a great crowd” of “other sheep” exercise faith in Jesus’ shed blood and enjoy a righteous standing with a view to being friends of God and survivors of Armageddon.—Revelation 7:9; 16:14, 16; John 10:16; James 2:23, 25.
33, 34. (a) What do we learn about Jehovah that warms our hearts? (b) Who are “the many” among whom the Messianic Servant receives “a portion”?
33 Finally, Isaiah describes the triumphs of the Messiah: “For that reason I shall deal him a portion among the many, and it will be with the mighty ones that he will apportion the spoil, due to the fact that he poured out his soul to the very death, and it was with the transgressors that he was counted in; and he himself carried the very sin of many people, and for the transgressors he proceeded to interpose.”—Isaiah 53:12.
34 The closing words of this part of Isaiah’s prophecy teach something heartwarming about Jehovah: He values those who remain loyal to him. This is indicated by the promise that he will “deal” the Messianic Servant “a portion among the many.” These words are apparently derived from the custom of dividing spoils of war. Jehovah appreciates the loyalty of “the many” faithful ones of ancient times, including Noah, Abraham, and Job, and he has reserved “a portion” for them in his coming new world. (Hebrews 11:13-16) Similarly, he will deal out a portion to his Messianic Servant. Indeed, Jehovah will not let his integrity go unrewarded. We too can rest assured that Jehovah will not ‘forget our work and the love we show for his name.’—Hebrews 6:10.
35. Who are “the mighty ones” with whom Jesus shares the spoils, and what are the spoils?
35 God’s Servant will also gain spoils of war by victory over his enemies. He will share these spoils with “the mighty ones.” In the fulfillment, who are “the mighty ones”? They are the first disciples of Jesus to conquer the world as he did—the 144,000 citizens of “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16; John 16:33; Revelation 3:21; 14:1) What, then, are the spoils? Evidently, these include the “gifts in men,” whom Jesus wrenches from Satan’s control, as it were, and gives to the Christian congregation. (Ephesians 4:8-12) The 144,000 “mighty ones” are also given a portion of another spoil. By reason of their victory over the world, they wrest from Satan any basis for taunting God. Their unbreakable devotion to Jehovah exalts him, making his heart rejoice.
36. Was Jesus aware that he was fulfilling the prophecy about God’s Servant? Explain.
36 Jesus was aware that he was fulfilling the prophecy about God’s Servant. On the night of his arrest, he quoted the words recorded at Isaiah 53:12 and applied them to himself: “I tell you that this which is written must be accomplished in me, namely, ‘And he was reckoned with lawless ones.’ For that which concerns me is having an accomplishment.” (Luke 22:36, 37) Sadly, Jesus was indeed treated like a lawless one. He was executed as a lawbreaker, impaled between two robbers. (Mark 15:27) Yet, he willingly bore this reproach, knowing full well that he was interceding for us. He stood, in effect, between sinners and the stroke of the death penalty, and he received the blow himself.
37. (a) The historical record of Jesus’ life and death enables us to make what identification? (b) Why should we be thankful to Jehovah God and to his exalted Servant, Jesus Christ?
37 The historical record of Jesus’ life and death enables us to make an unmistakable identification: Jesus Christ is the Messianic Servant of Isaiah’s prophecy. How thankful we should be that Jehovah was willing to let his dear Son fulfill the prophetic role of the Servant, suffering and dying that we might be redeemed from sin and death! Jehovah thus showed great love for us. Romans 5:8 says: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How grateful we should also be to Jesus Christ, the exalted Servant, who willingly poured out his soul to the very death!
In its rendering of Isaiah 52:13, the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel (first century C.E.), as translated by J. F. Stenning, states: “Behold, my servant, the Anointed One (or, the Messiah), shall prosper.” Similarly, the Babylonian Talmud (c. third century C.E.) says: “The Messiah—what is his name? . . . [; those] of the house of Rabbi [say, The sick one], as it is said, ‘Surely he hath borne our sicknesses.’”—Sanhedrin 98b; Isaiah 53:4.
The prophet Micah referred to Bethlehem as “the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah.” (Micah 5:2) Yet, small Bethlehem had the singular honor of being the town in which the Messiah was born.
The Hebrew word rendered “plagued” is also used in regard to leprosy. (2 Kings 15:5) According to certain scholars, some Jews derived from Isaiah 53:4 the idea that the Messiah would be a leper. The Babylonian Talmud applies this verse to the Messiah, calling him “the leper scholar.” The Catholic Douay Version, reflecting the Latin Vulgate, renders this verse: “We have thought him as it were a leper.”
[Chart on page 212]
How Jesus Fulfilled the Role
Elevated and exalted
Misrepresented and discredited
Startled many nations
Not believed in
Human beginning humble and unpretentious
Despised and rejected
Carried our sicknesses
Suffered for the errors of others
Quiet and uncomplaining before accusers
Unjustly tried and condemned
Buried with the rich
Soul set as a guilt offering
Opened the way for many to acquire a righteous standing
Reckoned with sinners
[Picture on page 203]
‘He was despised by men’
[Picture on page 206]
“He would not open his mouth”
Detail from “Ecce Homo” by Antonio Ciseri
[Picture on page 211]
“He poured out his soul to the very death”