Isaiah 53
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Cheyne translates, "Who believed that which we heard? and the arm of Jehovah, unto whom did it become manifest?" Immediate reference is to the attitude of the people towards Isaiah's assurances of God's restoring mercies, and towards his call to prepare themselves for returning to their own land. Further and fuller reference is to the failure of Messiah to win the general acceptance of the people, to whom he brought the glad tidings of God's "so great love." Divine messages are never widely welcomed. Only the few are ever found open-hearted, willing to heed when he is pleased to speak. Effort may be made to recognize the reasons for so strange a fact. They lie in men's moral dispositions, and hindering circumstances or prejudices. The mention of two or three hindrances may suggest a complete analysis of men's motives.

I. SOME MEN ARE SCEPTICAL. Their sphere is the strictly natural, and they find instant objection to every claim belonging to the supernatural. They are born doubters, and too often foster and culture their infirmity, as if it were a dignity or a gift. The special mistake such men make is to demand too much evidence - evidence of unsuitable character, and evidence such as they may be pleased to think would satisfy them. They want natural evidence for supernatural truths or facts, and wonder that no sign can be given them, and fancy themselves justified in refusing to believe. There is one very easy thing, that even a child can accomplish; it is this - find excuses when we do not want to obey.

II. SOME MEN ARE MASTERFUL. They like to have life in their own control, and cannot do with God's interfering by messages and commandments. Such men are sure to resist God's messengers and ministers. The response to pastors, who point out to such men the will of God concerning their daily life, is still what it has ever been' 'Talk on your abstract things, but leave my life alone. God's messages always, in one form or another, humble the pride of self: and this few men can bear, so they resist the messenger.

III. SOME MEN ARE EASYFUL. God calls to some doing, some duty. It may be putting away sin; it may be rendering some witness; it may be going the long journey back to Jerusalem, and helping to build the old wastes and raise the former desolations. And men prefer the comforts of Babylon, even if they are in slavery and know the defiling contacts of idolatry. Only meek, open, willing, and obedient souls believe that which they hear, and see the arm of the Lord made manifest to them." The best things are ever kept for meek souls. - R.T.

No beauty that we should desire him. In this prophetic picture of the Christ the question arises, "Who hath believed our report?" What wonderful attestation history gives to this! - "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Whether the words, "he hath no form nor comeliness," apply to the physical features of Christ, we cannot say; for the Jews had no "art." They interpreted the words, "Thou shalt not make to thyself... the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath," not as an injunction against "idols" alone, but against all statuary and all art. So, though we have the likenesses of the emperors on the Roman coins, and the Greek statues of Socrates and their wise men, we have no likeness of Christ or his apostles. But we do know the meaning of this, "There is no beauty that we should desire him."

I. THE EYE ADMIRES ONLY WHAT THE HEART LOVES. The beauty that eye desired was quite different. It was superficial and carnal, not inward and spiritual.

II. THE WORLD DOES NOT ALTER ITS TASTE. The classic virtues of paganism - pride, self-reliance, honour - are more prized by men of the world than patience, gentleness, pity, forbearance, and charity. Christ is not beautiful to the proud, nor to the selfish, nor to the ambitions and the vain. Only the pure in heart admire and love him! - W.M.S.

The whole passage is exceedingly remarkable in that it ascribes to one man qualities and surroundings which are so opposed to one another that they seem to be positively inconsistent with each other. And the difficulty has been to find a reconciliation. But all perplexity disappears when they are referred to Jesus Christ; for in him were combined features of character and changes of circumstance which could not be united in any other child of man. We have here a very strong statement as to the unattractive and unpromising appearance of the Servant of Jehovah, and this has to agree and does agree with the power and the dignity which are afterwards predicted of him (vers. 10, 12), and with the attractive power he has exercised in all ages of the world. We look at both.

I. THE UNATTRACTIVE IN JESUS CHRIST. He grew up as a tender twig or as a sprout that struggles for life in a dry ground; he lacked the beauty that draws attention, the comeliness which wins regard, in that:

1. He came of a fallen family.

2. He was a native of a despised and detested nation, probably the moat hated and contemned of all nations.

3. He was brought up in a disreputable village, and the reproach of its dishonour fell on him.

4. He was untrained in the learning which is held in the highest regard among men.

5. He made no pretence to be a deliverer of the kind popularly desired; he dispensed with military arms, officers, honours; he made no attempt to effect a political revolution; he disregarded and even shunned mere popular favour.

6. He taught truth which was above the appreciation and against the prejudices of his hearers; his thought was too profound for their understanding, his aims were too broad and liberal for their liking. His truth still cuts across the prejudices, passions, and lowest interests of men; and his purpose is to establish a kingdom which is far too spiritual to meet the sympathies of the selfish and the worldly. Nevertheless, he accomplished his purpose. That little shoot has become a strong tree, the strongest and fairest that has ever grown, the leaves of which are for the healing of all the nations. That One in whom was no beauty that men should desire him is proving to be "altogether lovely."

II. THE ATTRACTIVE IN JESUS CHRIST. What is there in him that draws the eyes and wins the hearts of men?

1. Elements of attraction in his character. His patient dignity in moments of trial and provocation; his gentleness toward the young and the feeble; his interest in the unworthy and unbefriended; his magnanimity toward his enemies, his stainless purity of heart and life; his compassion for the suffering and the sorrowful, etc.

2. Elements of attraction in his gospel. He offers forgiveness of sin to those burdened with a sense of guilt; rest of heart to those who are spiritually weary; holy and fruitful activity to the earnest and energetic; an unfailing friendship to the troubled and the lonely; a heavenly home to the tired travellers along the path of life. - C.

He is desvised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He! Who? The incarnate Lord, who has grown up in childhood as a "tender plant;" who is the one "living root," while all others are the dry soil of a decrepit and degenerate humanity.

I. THIS REVEALS TO US WHAT THE HEBREW CHURCH WAS. Christ was the "touchstone" of that Church. Its conduct to him made manifest to what a condition they had come. Think of the contrast. Pharisaism was triumphant - Christ was despised. The outward, the formal, the ritual, was preferred before the holy, the inward, and the spiritual. Christ was "rejected." They had the first opportunity of welcoming the "Lord from heaven." "To the Jew first." How learned men may be in tradition! how well acquainted with the 'Mishna' and the 'Gemara,' and yet know ail of ancient revelation except its meaning! The great gates of prophecy open wide to lot the true King through; and then treat him as a Pretender, and crown him with thorns.

II. THIS REVEALS TO US WHAT CHRIST WAS ON THE HUMAN SIDE. "A Man of sorrows." Think of his exquisite moral sensitiveness in a world of sin. Think of his tender human sympathies in a world of sorrow. "Acquainted with grief." Not in one special form, but in all its spheres, that he might be a Brother born for adversity. Acquainted with it. So that he had daily fellowship with it; not passing through its transient experiences, but familiar with it as the companion of his life. - W.M.S.

We feel that there is but One of our race to whom this title properly belongs; One who may wear it as a crown upon his brow, inasmuch as his sorrows do him higher honour than the most conspicuous success ever conferred on human spirit. It does belong to him, not in virtue of the fact that his outward career involved more cruel hardships than those ever borne before; but in virtue of the fact that his spirit was such as to make his endurance more grievous than that ever experienced by man. It was Jesus Christ's capacity of sorrow that made all the difference. Capacity to endure rises with the greatness of the spiritual nature; the larger the nature, the greater the possibility and likelihood of suffering. When, therefore, we remember that Jesus Christ, as a perfect Man, had the fullest and keenest possible sensibility of nature, and when we remember that the Divine was so associated in him with the human as immeasurably to deepen and enlarge every faculty of his soul, we shall see that his capacity of sorrow was almost boundless.

I. THE SOURCES OF HIS SORROW. These were, among others:

1. The failure on the part of his own best friends to understand and appreciate him. "They who knew him best could hardly be said to know him;" they entered only a very little way into his purpose, and could not sympathize with him in his deeper disappointments; "he trod the wine-press alone." But for his Father's presence he often was absolutely alone (John 16:32).

2. The frailty and even the treachery of his disciples. Those who followed him and called him Master had but little care for his truth or love for himself. In a moment of simple perplexity of mind they fell away from him, and abandoned his cause (John 6:66). One of his disciples grieved his spirit by distinct denial, and another pierced his heart by utter and open treachery.

3. The malignity of his enemies. There are men who do not care that their brethren whose confidence they have tried to win are cherishing toward them the bitterest hatred; not such was he of the tender heart and loving spirit.

4. The rejection of the people. He was rejected of men. Several men and women, in most places whither he went, may have flocked to hear him; and the common people heard him gladly, we know. But he had to acknowledge to himself that his principles made no way, that his truth was not apprehended and loved, that citizens did not enrol themselves in his spiritual kingdom.

5. The near presence of human suffering and sorrow. By partaking of our humanity as he did, Jesus came into the closest contact with the pains, the privations, the deformities, the diseases, and the sorrows of mankind. And by the power of an intense and living sympathy he made these his own (Matthew 8:17; John 11:33, 35). He bore them on his own heart; they weighed upon his spirit as a heavy burden.

6. A deep sense of human sin,culminating in a sacrifice for it. If the near presence of sorrow grieved and troubled him, how much more that of human sin in all its forms! With our lesser purity, we cannot tell how painful to his heart was the sight of all the selfishness, hypocrisy, greed, worldliness, malignity, corruption which he beheld, most of it affecting the language and the bearing of devotion. Yet with all these sources of sorrow, there were not wanting -


1. Unbroken communion with the heavenly Father.

2. The sincere attachment of many who, though they were imperfect disciples, yet trusted and loved him as their Teacher and Friend.

3. The gratitude of many whom he healed, and the deeper gratitude of many whom he saved.

4. The consciousness of faithful fulfilment of his great mission.

5. A calm, profound assurance of victory through death and shame (John 12:24, 32). In the heart of the Man of sorrows were deep springs of joy, such as they who wounded him and triumphed over him knew not of. In our case, as in his, there may be the light of a blessed peace and even of heavenly joy in a soul that moves under darkest skies through a clouded life. - C.

Philip the evangelist, from this, and the connected passage, preached unto the eunuch Jesus. This is sufficient reason for our associating it with Messiah. The chapter concerns the human life, the sorrowful experience, the shameful death, and the eternal triumph of the Son of God. The story of the Christ can be gathered up and expressed in a sentence," He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." The personification of heathen pride and fear, Herod sought to slay him as a babe. Representatives of the wealth and learning and religion of their age, scribes and Sadducees and Pharisees rejected him, that they might cleave to their traditions. The common people, moved sometimes by the goodness of his words and the graciousness of his deeds, heard him gladly, cast their garments in his way, and waved palm branches with hosannahs; but at another time they hurried him away to cast him headlong from an overhanging cliff, and shouted, "Crucify him!" Even the few who seemed to see his glory, on whom some beams of his Divine splendour rested, even they forsook him in the hour of his need, and fled, or sold him for mere silver, or denied him with oaths and curses. He passed on to Calvary amid rabble-shouts, "His blood be on us and on our children!" and there he hung, despised in the shame of the cross; despised as they passed him by, wagging their heads. Rejected as they cried, "We have no king but Caesar. and chose instead of him a murderer and thief. Now, the world has never known anything so passing strange as that despising and rejecting of God's greatest and best gift to men. To realize the strangeness or' this tact, consider -

I. THE PERSON AND THE CREDENTIALS OF THE REJECTED ONE. The world has had many impostors, men with a genius for making claims which there were no facts to support. In the spheres of medicine, education, politics, and religion, there have been many who were found out at last, and rejected of men as untrue and unworthy. No man ever claimed such a position and such rights as Jesus did; but no man ever gave such abundant and satisfactory proof of his claims. He was a Divine Messenger, the appointed Agent for securing the reconciliation of man with God; he was even God himself, manifest in the flesh. But these claims were duly supported. Christ came at a time and in a manner which fitted precisely into the fore-given prophecies, which the people believed. There was perfect accordance between the claims he made and the life he lived, the spirit he manifested and the work he did. His character was so attractive as to win respect, yet so perfect as to excite wonder. He had the power over nature in its various moods, over disease in its various forms, and over death in its various stages, which can be associated only with the Divine Being. And yet he is "despised and rejected of men." Divine, with Divine blessings to bestow; putting forth Divine power, doing a Divine work, and bringing down to men the Divine glory; yet, nevertheless, despised and rejected. Those times have passed away, but the credentials of Christ have only multiplied with the advancing ages. The moral miracles of conversion are far stronger proofs of Divine power than any physical miracles can be; and yet it is still true of many, "He is despised and rejected;" "They hide their faces from him."

II. THE FITNESS OF CHRIST TO MEET THE DEEPEST HUMAN NEEDS. The needs of man as man; and the needs of man as fallen, sinful man. There are two things we can think of as left in our nature, relics of the old Eden-glory - the wish to know God, and the desire to find what is good. Wherever there is the conception of God there is the inquiry, "Who is he? What is he? Where is he?" The gods many of heathen lands are attempted answers to man's cry after God. Christ met this want, and he alone has met it. In his Person he brings God down to the sphere of our human scenes, human thoughts, human language, He offers his earth-life to men and says to them, "Behold your God!" You see men pursuing all kinds of ends; they are seeking the supply of the great want of their nature, they are trying to find what is good. But the pure, the true, the self-denying, was never so set before men as in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. Virtue then clothed herself in human garb. It is only half a truth to say, "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth," for he was the positive embodiment of all truth and grace and goodness. And, further than this, Christ also met the conditions and needs of man as fallen and sinful. The "Fall" has left on man a sense of separation from God. We have not, now, a consciousness of near relations and happy fellowship with God; Christ came to restore it to us, by taking away the hindrances outside us and in us. When Jesus came to our world, the needs of fallen sinful man were being felt more pressingly than ever before; the world was anxiously looking for a Revealer and Redeemer. Jew and Gentile united in the out-looking: Jews from the helplessness of a ceremonial out of which the life and meaning had gone; Gentiles from the dissatisfaction of multiplying senseless idols. And yet, though Christ brought the supply of the deepest need men knew, the fact remains, "he was despised and rejected of men." Humanity is usually keen in its endeavour to secure its own interests, but here it strangely, sadly fails. It it be asked why it fails here, we can only say, because Christ brings the humbling conviction of sin, and the pride of men resists. We are all willing to have our needs met and supplied; but we resist the idea that, as guilty, helpless sinners before God, we must ask for mercy, free, sovereign mercy. - R.T.

I. THE DESCRIPTION OF THE SUFFERING. It depicts, by simple force of language, its extreme intensity - not a suffering springing from internal weakness of nature, and so withering and dying like a lamp for want of oil, but "like a torch in its full flame bent and ruffled, and at length blown out by the breath of a north wind." It was a diffused suffering, according to the expression of the psalmist, "like water in his bowels, or oil in his bones." "In his person we may see grief in its height and supremacy, triumphant, crowned and arrayed in purple, grief reigning and doing the utmost that it was able." In proportion to the fineness of the nature is the sensitiveness, and in proportion to the sensitiveness, the capacity for suffering. In these words, "stricken, pierced, afflicted, crushed, beaten with stripes," we have a cumulation of strong touches in the picture. Add to this, "smitten of God." The allusion is said to be to leprosy, regarded as a punishment for grievous sin (Numbers 12:9, 10; 2 Kings 15:5; Psalm 51:7). "The measure of every passion is the operation of the agent. We must not measure the Divine strokes by the proportion of those blows which are inflicted by the greatest and most exasperated mortal. Every blow inflicted by the fiercest tyrant can reach no further than the body, and the body is but the dwelling-place, not any part, of the soul. None can reach the conscience but he who made it. God is able, merely by letting a few drops of his wrath fall upon the guilty conscience, so to scald with a lively sense of sin, that the man shall live a continual terror to himself. His own breast shall echo peals of vengeance to him every hour. Suffering must needs be grievous when infinite justice passes sentence, and infinite power does execution" (South). An "unparalleled greatness" of suffering is, then, here indicated.

II. THE VICARIOUS NATURE OF THE SUFFERING. He bore our sicknesses; "the first of twelve distinct assertions in this one chapter of the vicarious character of the sufferings of the Servant." They are "because of our rebellions" and of "our iniquities." The punishment which is the means of "our peace" and welfare fell upon him; we have been healed through his stripes. The iniquity of all has been made to light upon him. "As the avenger of blood pursues the murderer, so punishment by an inner necessity overtakes the sinner (Psalm 40:12; Numbers 32:23; cf. Deuteronomy 27:15). And inasmuch as the Servant, by Jehovah's will, has made himself the Substitute of the Jewish nation, it follows that the punishment of the latter must fall upon him." After all that has been written for ages upon this difficult subject of vicarious suffering or punishment, there remain difficulties not to be surmounted by our reason. How can punishment be transferred? How can the suffering due to the sinner be imposed upon an innocent person? How can any honest mind admit such a confusion of relation, even were it offered, as a means of escape from penalty? The answers to these questions are given in poetic metaphors, and analogies which do not reach to the heart of the matter, and forensic quibbles which are not lovely in connection with spiritual matters. For all that, there is something the heart of all men fixes upon as lovely, Divine, adorable, in the idea of a man laying down his life for his brethren, a patriot for his country. Much of this deep feeling enters into the old legends, often of a woman - an Alkestis, a Makaria, an Hesione; often of a man - a son of Mesa, King of Moab, a Menoikeus, a Curtius. If we begin to criticize, we lose the sense and spirit of these sweet stories. So with the great tradition of the Servant of Jehovah, and with the still greater tradition by which our lives and hearts have been formed.

III. APPLICATION. Every Christian thinks of Christ when he reads these beautiful words. Who but he can inspire us with the willingness to "crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts"? "Nature, indeed, cannot, will not, prompt it; but Christianity, which rises many strains above nature, must and will. The best sacrifice to a crucified Saviour is a crucified lust, a bleeding heart, and a dying corruption. Let the ambitious man lay his pride in the dust, the covetous man deposit his treasures in the banks of charity and liberality, and let the voluptuous epicure renounce his cups and his whores, - and this will be a present to Heaven better than a whole hecatomb; nor could the fruit of his body fall so grateful a sacrifice upon God's altar as the sin of his soul" (South). - J.

In these words, which remain ever fresh and sacred, though they are so familiar to our hearts, we have -

I. A SAD AND STRIKING PICTURE. It is the picture of the Servant of the Lord, wounded, bruised, chastened, stricken. We cannot fail to see in it the sufferings of the holy Saviour. We see him:

1. Wounded in body; not only a-hungered and athirst, not only weary with long-continued labours and without the promise of the soft pillow. of rest when the day was done, but suffering, beyond this, the laying on him the hard, rough hand of a brutal soldiery, the cruel smiting and scourging, the piercing of hand and foot with the remorseless nail, the pains and pangs of crucifixion. But beyond this, immeasurably more serious and more severe than this, we see him:

2. Wounded in spirit; bruised in soul by the shortcoming, the inconstancy, even the treachery of his own friends, by the superficiality and frailty of the outer band of his disciples, by the intense and inappeasable malignity of his enemies, by the sight of sickness and sorrow, by the pressure and burden of human sin; all this weight of evil crushing his holy and tender spirit.

II. A NATURAL BUT A FALSE CONCLUSION. "We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted," i.e. on account of his own sins. It was natural that men should think thus; there are facts which go to support though they do not justify it.

1. It is true that sin and suffering are very closely and causally connected. All sinners are, as such, sufferers.

2. It is true that, as a rule, great sinners are great sufferers. It was not accidental that Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod the Great, Philip II. of Spain, and other men, who, like them, committed enormities of wrong-doing, endured terrible pains of body and fearful remorse of spirit. But it does not follow that a very great sufferer is a very great sinner. For it is also true

(1) that some of the purest and saintliest of mankind have been visited with severest bodily pains, or have passed through most trying troubles, or been called to endure heaviest afflictions.

(2) And that the great Teacher warned us against pushing this doctrine to a perversion of the truth (Luke 13:3).

(3) And we know that it was wholly inapplicable to the Lord himself. He who suffered mere than any other of the children of men was that one Son of man who "did no sin, and in whose mouth no guile was found;" he was the innocent, the pure, the just, the righteous One.

III. THE DIVINE ACCOUNT OF IT. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows... he was wounded for our transgressions," etc. But is it credible or is it even possible that the innocent One would or could suffer for us the guilty ones? Why not? Being such a One as he is - the pitiful, compassionate, magnanimous One, it is exactly what we might expect he would do.

1. Involuntarily, we are continually bearing one another's griefs. One sins and another suffers, beneath every sky and from generation to generation.

2. Voluntarily we suffer in one another's stead. The father willingly suffers and strives that his son may not endure all the threatened consequences of his guilty folly; the mother eagerly endures greatest privations that her daughter may be spared the dishonour which is her due; the friend gladly shares, halves the trouble, the anxiety, the loss, into which his old companion has fallen. Just as men are magnanimous and noble-minded, so do they carry the sorrows of their fellows, so are they willingly wounded and bruised for the transgressions of their kindred and their friends. And if we, being evil, will do this, how much more our Father who is in heaven! if we, whose thoughts and ways are so comparatively low, how much more he whose thoughts and whose ways are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth! It is just the very thing we should look for from the heavenly Father.

IV. THE PRACTICAL CONCLUSION. That we should, by a living faith in the Divine Redeemer, avail ourselves of the work he wrought when he suffered for us. Otherwise we shall not know the peace and rest of heart which he came to secure us. - C.

The prophet sets before us an unusual Sufferer, and bids us think what can be the explanation of such sufferings.

1. It might be punishment for sin; as was David's bitter trial in the matter of Absalom.

2. It might be discipline of character; as was the suffering of Job. Neither of these will suffice for the case that Isaiah presents.

3. It might be vicarious, a burden-bearing for others. This only will suffice to explain the unusual woes of Messiah. Treating the subject more fully, we note -

I. MAN'S EXPLANATIONS OF THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS. "We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

1. Take the case of a man who was told of our Lord's sufferings and death, but had no knowledge of his personal innocence. Such a man would know that God has established a direct connection between sin and suffering. Suffering is the universal and necessary consequence of sin. The association is plain in regard to our bodily nature. Disregard of the rules of health, exposure to changing seasons, or indulgence in unwholesome food, are certainly followed by bodily suffering and peril. Adam sinned, and at once suffering came, in the upwelling of passion, the hiding of God's favour, and the loss of Eden. Cain sinned, and suffering came, as remorse and disgrace. David sinned, and his "bones waxed old through his roaring." Such a man, then, would have good grounds for suspecting sin wherever he found suffering, and for arguing that there must be unusual sin if there is unusual suffering. Job's friends argued thus; and, so far as surface-truth is concerned, they argued fairly enough. We cannot wonder if the man should say that Christ's sufferings must be explained on the ground that Christ has sinned, and is bearing the natural and necessary consequences of his transgressions. To the casual observer there was nothing so extraordinary about Christ's sufferings as to make his an exceptional case, requiring an exceptional explanation. He was condemned after trial by Pilate; he was only treated in accordance with the custom of the age; he made high pretensions, he called himself "King of the Jews," and so, when he was condemned, the Roman soldiers taunted him, and Jewish fanatics insulted him. And such a man would have a further right to say that God's hand of judgment was in his sufferings. Human laws, if they are to gain the respect of men, must be regarded as applications and adaptations of God's law. When a man is convicted and punished by human law, we ought to feel that he is punished by God. Then, as Christ was delivered up to death by Pilate, the administrator of law, a man may fairly infer that Christ was "smitten of God." Thus Jewish bigots seem to have thought of the Nazarene malefactor. As they looked on that crucified group, why should they think differently of the central Sufferer? Why may they not say of all the three what the one robber said to the other, "We indeed suffer the due reward of our deeds"?

2. Take the case of a man who has some knowledge of Christ's life, and some impression of his personal innocence. Such a man would regard Christ as strangely "afflicted;" his sufferings were calamities. The more he knew of the "blessed life" Jesus had lived, the more would he feel that such an early and such a humiliating death was inconceivably sad - something to be mourned over, as was that death of Ulric Zwingle, when in the fulness of his power and influence. Calamity, that is, suffering of which the sufferer's sin is not the immediate cause, is no uncommon thing in this world. The tower of Siloam fell, and buried beneath its ruins some of the people; but our Lord reminds us that those who perished were not sinners above all that dwelt at Jerusalem. The fall was, to them, a "visitation of God." In this way the man might fairly look upon the innocent Jesus, and say he fell a victim to the cruelty of his enemies. He attacked national vices, he aroused national hatred; he, like Socrates, fell through the wicked schemes of vile men. If the man knew that he was the Son of God, co-equal with the Father, then that life of humiliation and death of shame must take place among the mysteries that baffle human intelligence. It is the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations - a mystery which God must unfold, or it never can be unfolded.


1. God maintains man's view that the sufferings were his appointment. The special connection between Christ and God, in the work of human redemption, may be argued on these lines.

(1) Christ claimed to be a commissioned Agent (John 4:34; John 6:38; John 8:42).

(2) God himself bore witness to Christ as his Son and Messenger, expressing his relation to and interest in the work which Christ came to do (see testimonies at our Lord's baptism and transfiguration).

(3) The witness of both the previous and the subsequent revelation is in favour of the connection (see Psalm 40:7; 1 John 4:14).

2. The sufferings of Christ bore no relation to his own personal guilt (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).

3. God distinctly affirms that Christ suffered as a Substitute, in place of guilty men, and that on him the burden and penalty of our transgressions rested. This is God's answer to the supremely important question, "How can man be just with God?" (see Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:28). - R.T.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. We shall never understand the atonement. From Anselm's day to our own there have been ever-changing theories of it. But the fact remains; and, mysterious as it is, we learn that there was a Godward aspect of it, as well as a manward aspect. But into "the cup which my Father hath given me to drink" no man, no angel, can look.

I. THIS IS THE REVELATION OF DIVINE SACRIFICE. "He gave himself." But he was more than wounded by the treatment of his character, and by the contempt of his claims, and by the forsakings of his own disciples. It is not enough to say that the pride of the Jew and the scorn of the Greek and the power of the Roman crucified him. He was "delivered up for our offences." So here "the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

II. THIS IS THE SUBJECT OF ETERNAL SONG. Heaven rings with the grateful acclaim, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,... to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." And the presence of the redeemed there at all is distinctly stated to rest upon the sacrifice of Christ. Because "they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, therefore are they before the throne of God." This, at all events, has been the Catholic teaching of Christendom in all ages; and fill the hymnology of the Church in all its various branches. Roman and Anglican, Lutheran and Puritan, have united in a common adoration of the cross and passion, thus antedating the praises of eternity. - W.M.S.

These words, though very pictorial and poetical, indicate with great clearness the cardinal truths of religion and even of Christianity, and they express for us the thought and feeling common to all devout spirits. We see in them -

I. THE HOME WHENCE WE HAVE DEPARTED. It is not stated, but it is clearly implied, that the fold or home whence we have gone astray is.

1. That of God, our Creator, our Father, our Divine Friend; it is that where he dwells, where he rules, where he sheds the sunshine of his presence and favour.

2. It is that of righteousness; of gratitude, of love, of reverence, of obedience, of submission.

3. It is that of peace; of spiritual order, rest, joy.

II. THE DIFFERENT PATHS WE HAVE PURSUED. "We have turned every one to his own way." Sinful error takes many directions. Sometimes it wanders into unbelief and denial; sometimes into rebelliousness of spirit, disdainful rejection of Divine claim; at other times into a sinful indulgence, in one or other of its various forms; or again into a guilty negligence and unconcern, or a criminal procrastination of sacred duty; or yet again into a hollow and worthless formalism, which has the show of piety without the substance of it. But in these various paths of sin there is one thing which is common to all, viz. the setting up of the human will against the will of God. Every one of us has gone his own way. We have "followed the devices and desires of our own hearts." We have determinately set our own inclination against the will of God. And herein we have -

III. THE GUILT WHICH WE HAVE ALL INCURRED. "All we... have gone astray." Some men have wandered farther away from God than others; some have gone in an opposite direction to that of others; but all men have guiltily preferred their own way to the home and the fold of God. All have forsaken and disregarded and grieved him. And thus all have sinned; all, without exception; not only those who have fallen into gross and most shameful enormities, but they also who have kept to the proprieties of outward behaviour, and have observed the decencies and requirements of the religious life t - all have withheld from God what is his due, and reserved to themselves what was not theirs to keep.

IV. THE PROVISION GOD HAS MADE FOR OUR RETURN. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." This does not signify that Jesus Christ bore the penalty due to all human sin - a part of that penalty it was absolutely impossible that the Innocent One should beat: It means that the redemptive work he wrought, and wrought by his submission to sorrow and death, avails for every child of man who will accept it; it means that in Christ is forgiveness of sin, acceptance with God, entrance into life eternal to every one who humbly but heartily receives him as Saviour and Lord. - C.

Some chapters and verses of the Bible are so sacred to us that we almost fear to open and examine them; and yet those are the very portions that best reward a loving and reverent examination. This chapter is the gem of Isaiah's writings. This verse is the conclusion to which the prophet comes, as he here views the long sad story of the Saviour's sufferings. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." We consider -

I. MAN'S INIQUITY. The word means "unequalness;" man is never quite the same, never quite steady, he does not keep the straight line, and this indicates a wrong state of mind and heart. Man's iniquity is:

(1) Affirmed in Scripture. "All flesh has corrupted his way; Who can say, I have made my heart clean?" (see Romans 3.).

(2) Universally acknowledged, both by individuals and nations in moments of alarm (see Nineveh, when alarmed by the preaching of Jonah). St. Paul, in Romans 1., apart from the special Divine revelation, convicts men of iniquity in view of the great, universal, natural laws of their own being and of human society. Personally, we are not prepared to deny this fact of human iniquity; though, to so many of us, it is only an intellectual conception without any moral power in it. We resort to various devices in order to keep off personal applications and convictions.

(1) We charge the evil on the race.

(2) We try to think of it as a mere disease or calamity.

(3) We procrastinate over the consideration of it.

It would be altogether wiser to face it, and try to realize it and deal with it.

(1) Observe that suggestive figure of the text, "sheep gone astray." It brings to mind ignorance, wilfulness, helplessness, foolishness, as characteristics of the unrenewed man.

(2) Estimate the aggravations of human iniquity. If God were severe or unreasonable, bravery might half excuse rebellion; but our God is righteousness and love.

(3) Sin finds such manifold and dreadful forms in which to express itself (see list in Galatians 5:19-24).

(4) Human iniquity has one dreadful root. It is wilful self-love and self-pleasing. "God is not in all their thoughts;" "Turned to his own way;" "The God in whom thy breath is... thou hast not glorified." Face, then, the fact of your own iniquity before God. Be true to yourself about it. Ask - On whom can it be laid?

II. MAN BEARING HIS OWN INIQUITY. For a man may seriously and thoughtfully say - Why cannot I bear my own iniquities, the burden of their penalty, and the work of securing deliverance from their power? Fairly consider, then, such things as these.

1. Iniquity grows, involving ever-increasing physical and spiritual penalties.

2. Iniquity sets going a train of evils by which even your best treasures may be consumed. Do what you will, can you stop them?

3. Iniquity, in its effects, is now seen only in part, and day by day; in the eternity we shall have to see it at once, and as a whole. Illustrate by the vision of a life of sin that comes to the drowning. Unless utterly blinded by pride and self worship, no man would ever dare to say, "I can bear my own burdens." "Though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much sope, yet is thine iniquity marked before me, saith the Lord."

III. GOD BEARING MAN'S INIQUITY FOR HIM. The person who bore was God's Christ, and so it was really God bearing. This expression should be viewed in the light of the figure used in the text - the figure of the shepherd laying on the under-shepherd the duty of fetching the wandering sheep back, and setting it, free of evil, self-willed propensities, in the fold again. That work was the "burden" which he was called to bear. So God laid on Christ the work of delivering men from their iniquity, from its consequences, and from itself. "Himself bare our sicknesses, and carried our sorrows." He took on him man's deliverance from sin, and spent his time in illustrative healings of men's bodily infirmities, and gave his life in the endeavour to save men from their sins. Illustrate by showing how the burden of the slave-woe was laid on Wilberforce; and that of the prison-woe was laid on Howard and Fry. Any man who is actively concerned for a degraded class really bears their sins. In giving Christ, God proposed the saving of men from their sins, and therefore his Son was named the significant name of Jesus. God laid the sin on Christ, as if he had said, "I charge you now with this supremely difficult, but most blessed work, of saving, everlastingly saving, sinful, wilful, ruined men." Plead, in conclusion, with each one rims: Do you feel your iniquity? Is it your burden? Are you asking - What can be done with it? where can it Toe laid? Then see, the living Christ is charged of God with that very burden; it has been laid upon him: it is laid upon him; he can be the living, delivering, saving Friend even to you. - R.T.

In the picture of the Servant of Jehovah we have an exemplification of the force of quiet endurance which prevails over violence, even to victory.

I. AN EXAMPLE OF SUBMISSION TO WRONG. The slave-driver (Exodus 3:7; Job 3:18), or the exactor of a tax or a debt (Deuteronomy 15:2, 3; 2 Kings 23:35), is the image of oppression in its urgency and its contumely· And the silence of the suffering One eloquently speaks of his resignation (Psalm 38:14; Psalm 39:9). The gentle uncomplaining lamb may well set him forth "with power at his disposal, yet as meek as if he had no power; with consciousness of impending fate, yet calm as if ignorant of it" (cf. Jeremiah 11:19; 1 Peter 2:23). The idea of the Lamb of God in the New Testament rests in part upon this passage "The two or three who can win it may be called victors in life's conflict; to them belongs the regnum et diadema tutum. His was the lot represented by our great poet as tempting in its extreme anguish to thoughts of suicide. But from another source the Servant obtains his quietus. He was not supported by the thought that the meaning of his sufferings was understood and laid to heart by his contemporaries. They did not see that for the rebellion of the people he was stricken. And even after death insult pursued his memory (cf. Jeremiah 26:23). They buried his body, not amidst the remains of his departed friends, but with the wicked and the criminal, the proud deniers of God, or with the rich and haughty Gentiles. This was the last mark of an ignominy (Isaiah 14:19), and it was all undeserved. How mighty the contrast of appearances and results! The despised of men is in reality the eternally honoured of God.

II. THE DIVINE PURPOSE AND DECREE. There was no cruel accident or misunderstanding in all this; it was the result of Divine deliberate will - the pleasure of Jehovah. The Servant was to lay down his life as a guilt offering. He was to fulfil and crown the idea of all sacrifice in his own Person. Restitution was to be made for injured rights of property. Israel had become de-consecrated. Her life had been forfeited, and satisfaction must be rendered. And this is provided in the self-dedication of the Servant. And the result will be that he will become the Head of a spiritual posterity (cf. Psalm 22:30). His piety will be rewarded by length of days. Both these are figures of highest blessing among the Hebrews (Genesis 12:2; Deuteronomy 6:2; Psalm 91:16; Psalm 127:5; Psalm 128:6; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 17:6). He will be promoted to a scene of high spiritual employment (Isaiah 52:13), the pleasure of Jehovah" prospering under his conduct. His former spiritual agony and toil of spirit, his travail (Psalm 110:10; Job 3:10; Jeremiah 20:18; Ecclesiastes 2:11-20; Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 for the word), will be abundantly compensated by the joy of contemplation of the progressing work of salvation, as the husbandman is satisfied with the sight of the harvest, for which he has "sown in tears." On the foundation of his sacrifice and his teaching many will be redeemed from sin and become a righteous and a holy people. And so, without bloodshed and the din of battle, he will become a glorious Conqueror, and the spiritual kingdom of the Eternal will be among the world-subduing powers. All this because he humbled himself, because he was devoted, because he loved.

III. LESSONS. How mighty the power of patience! The hero of God is not clothed in purple, nor fed on sweets; "daily his own heart he eats." His hope sets not with the setting of suns; his faith is earlier in its rising than the stars. Amidst all his seeming weakness he cannot be crushed; and the blows of his adversaries miss their aim. The spiritual element is immortal, indefeasible, finally victorious.

"They say, through patience, chalk
Becomes a ruby stone;
Ah, yes! but by the true heart's blood
The chalk is crimson grown." Who was originally meant by the servant of Jehovah may remain obscure. We at least cannot but apply the representation to the Captain of salvation, the Leader and Finisher of faith, who endured the cross for the joy set before him. And also to every true servant of the Eternal, who feels that he was brought into the world to witness for the truth and devote himself in the cause of love.

"This is he who, felled by foes,
Sprang harmless up, refreshed by blows;
He to captivity was sold,
But him no prison-bars would hold

Though they sealed him in a rock,
Mountain-chains he can unlock;
Thrown to lions for their meat,
The crouching lion kissed his feet

Bound to the stake, no flames appalled,
But arched o'er him an honouring vault.
This is he men miscall fate,
Threading dark ways, arriving late,
But e'er coming in time to crown
The truth, and hurl wrong-doers down." = - J.

Those who have a high appreciation of the more minute scriptural correspondences will naturally find a reference here to the fact recorded in Matthew 27:14. But we prefer to dwell on the submissiveness rather than the silence of our Lord, on the inward spirit rather than the outward incident.

I. THE SUBMISSIVENESS OF OUR SAVIOUR'S SPIRIT. The unspoken word of repining or reproach was of real value, because, in him, it indicated the unquestioning spirit, the unresentful heart.

1. The spirit of acquiescence. There is a silent, sullen acceptance of fate which is removed from the spirit of obedient acquiescence as far as evil is distant from good. Our Lord's was the obedient spirit, that which cheerfully and heartily consented to the ordination of God. With willing hand he raised the bitter draught to his lips, and in the spirit of filial readiness he uttered those strengthening words," The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" And in his attitude toward man there was not only the unresisting hand, but also:

2. The unresentful heart. He did indeed declaim against the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees in uncompromising language (Matthew 23 but we detect no note of personal vindictiveness; he is affected and inspired throughout by pure indignation. When he is illegally and shamefully smitten there is no touch of unholy resentment in his reply, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23). And who, in this connection, can fail to remember the magnanimous prayer, breathed in the midst of the most excruciating pain, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"?


1. Absolute trust in the wisdom and goodness of God: not only the thankful acceptance of what is pleasant and prosperous, and the unhesitating acceptance of what is mysterious and insoluble by our human understanding, but also the willing acceptance of what is painful, grievous, distressing to the heart - the cherishing in our soul of an absolute assurance that, however dark and troublous be the hour that is passing over us, God is leading us by the right way to the heavenly city.

2. A magnanimous attitude toward our fellow-men.

(1) The absence of a vindictive spirit, and of resentful action: "Love your enemies;" "Resist not evil," etc. Proceedings taken against a viotation of human law in the spirit of justice are not inconsistent with the unrevengeful spirit of Christ.

(2) The exercise of the broadest charity; in our judgment of men, giving credit for the pure rather than the impure, the worthy rather than the unworthy, the public rather than the personal motive.

(3) The practice of peacemaking; interposing on all occasions that offer in the interest of peace.

(4) The readiness to forgive. "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:35). - C.

Opened not his mouth. A careful study of the fivefold examinations of our Lord, before Annas, before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate, before Herod, and before Pilate again, will bring very impressively to view the remarkable silences of our Lord. Sometimes he spoke, never more than brief sentences. But sometimes no word could be drawn from him, and the silence was either convincing or aggravating. It was, however, always the sign that our Lord had supreme command of himself, never for one brief moment, amid all those terrible scenes, losing his self-control. We notice two things.

I. WHEN A MAN'S WORK IS TO ENDURE, THERE IS NO NEED FOR SPEECH. The enduring is the speech; and it can seldom be helped by any spoken words. Suffering for God has its own voice, and does not want any utterance by the lips. Illustrate from sufferers in our spheres who "possess their souls in patience." "They also serve who only stand and wait." Show that our Lord's active work was now done; he was called to bear, endure, suffer,

II. WHEN A MAN MAY NOT SPEAK, HIS WORK IS DONE BY SILENCE. He shows to men an example of self-control, in the triumph he has won, which enables him to keep silence; and there are reproaches and convictions and humiliations in simple silence, that pierce to the dividing asunder of our souls as no spoken words can do. Sometimes we find absolutely unendurable the silence of those whose silence we feel to be reproof. Illustrate Christ's power on Peter, on Herod, and on Pilate. There are many occasions, even in our lives, when we may "say nothing," and so best serve God. - R.T.

Who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living. "He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days." Here is a paradox in connection with our Master which finds a close correspondence in another connected with ourselves.

I. THE BREVITY AND PERPETUITY OF OUR LORD'S CAREER. It was indeed true, as the prophet foresaw, that "he was cut off," etc.; his days were few; his ministry was brief - counted by months rather than by years. There did not seem to be time enough in that short span, in a course so quickly run and so suddenly concluded, to accomplish anything great and far-reaching. But how wide has his influence proved! how long has his Name been known and his power been felt! How has he "prolonged his days" in the institutions he has founded which are existing now, in the truth he announced which is triumphing to-day over all other theories, in the spirit he communicated which is breathing still in the laws, the literature, the habits, the language of mankind! Who shall declare his generation? Does he not "see his seed" in the countless children of his grace who flock to his standard, who bless his Name, who call him Lord and Saviour and Friend! He who was so soon cut off from the land of the living is proving himself to be the One who hath immortality as no other son of man has had or ever will have.


1. Our life below is very brief. Scripture abundantly asserts it; observation is continually confirming it; experience is painfully proving it. It is not only brief, so far as the actual number of our years is concerned when compared with some animal life or with angelic existence, or when contrasted with God's eternity; but it is brief so far as our own consciousness is concerned. Its conclusion seems to come with great rapidity and unexpectedness. In the curiosity of childhood, the eagerness of youth, the ambition and activity of early manhood, the cares and anxieties of prime and of declining days, our life hurries on and passes away, and, before we are looking for it, there comes the last summons and the day of departure.

2. But, short as it is, it is sufficient. It is long enough for us to store our minds with heavenly wisdom; to become reconciled to God and to take our stand with the wise and holy; to grow into the likeness of our Divine Exemplar; to bear witness to the truth of Christ; to exert an influence which will never die. Our truest and best "seed" are not found in the children and grandchildren who are born to us, but in the spiritual results we have accomplished. We die and disappear, and the stone on which our name is carved is overthrown, and no man will speak of us again; but we, too, "shall prolong our days" in the holy and beautiful characters men will be forming and the useful lives they will be living, because of the witness we are bearing here and the work we are doing now. - C.

This prepares us to see that the real sacrifice for sin, which our Redeemer offered, was the full surrender of his will, his self, to God, which found expression, for us to apprehend it, in his bodily sufferings on the cross (see Hosea 9:14).

I. SIN IS A SOUL-THING. It is not an act; it is a man acting.

II. PENALTY IS A SOUL-THING. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."

III. SALVATION IS A SOUL-THING. Christ bore the soul-penalty; Christ brought life for dead souls. The infinite depth of Christ's suffering lay hidden - in behind - in the Redeemer's soul, finding only once what seemed a suitable utterance in human language, and that a cry of immeasurable distress, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" - R.T.

When the sufferings of our Lord are spoken of in Scripture, they are usually connected with his exaltation and glory. "When they testified of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow;" "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God;" "Ought not Messias to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory? For the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour! A witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed." But the idea of this text is not so much the glory which our Lord himself shall reach through his work, as the benefits and blessings which, through him, shall come to men. Both may be included in the treatment of this theme.

I. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE PERSONAL RESULTS OF HIS WORK. He has, through it, the "Name which is above every name;" and the power which he can use for larger blessings, "giving repentance to Israel, and remission of sins."

II. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE RESULTS OF HIS WORK IN ITS RELATION TO GOD. To see the lest, prodigal sons and daughters of God turning yearning eyes homewards, and saying "Abba, Father!" must be satisfaction indeed to him who came that, in his sonship, he might honour the Father.

III. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE DIRECT RESULTS OF HIS WORK FOR MEN. He came to save. He rejoices in every saved one: every "brand plucked from the burning."

IV. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION IN THE INDIRECT RESULTS OF HIS WORK FOR MAN. To save a man from sin is to raise and ennoble a life, to give new tone to a family, to purify all the relationships of society, and to redeem a nation, and to save the world. Illustrate from what Christianity has done and is doing. But Christianity is an abstraction. The real blessing of humanity is the thousandfold varied influence of the men and women whom Christ has saved from wrath and sin. He has present satisfaction in a heaven full of white-robed saints, in a Church striving to keep its white garments unspotted from the world; and in the expectation of the time when the "creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." - R.T.

He was numbered with the transgressors. The fact that he who was the Author of all law and the Judge of all moral agents was himself classed with transgressors is most suggestive; it calls our attention to the truth -

I. THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN, though he is righteous, MAY BE CHARGED WITH WRONG. If Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, was accused of sin, how much more may we, who are only comparatively and imperfectly righteous, be so charged!

II. THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN MAY, in virtue of his righteousness, BE ACCUSED OF WRONG. Jesus Christ was charged with blasphemy because he said what he said and acted as he did in pursuance of his great and beneficent mission; he was accused of fellowship with sin because he was bent on carrying his gospel of grace to the very worst of mankind (Luke 15:2). In the same way, a good man may lay himself open to the charge of transgression in virtue of his very excellency; a devout man, because of his devotion, to the charge of pietism or hypocrisy; a zealous man, because of his ardour, to the charge of fanaticism; a courageous man, to the charge of rashness; a trustful man, to the accusation of presumption, etc.


1. The approval of their own conscience.

2. The knowledge that they take rank with their great Leader, who was himself numbered with the transgressors, and with all the best of the good in every age and land (Matthew 5:11, 12).

3. The assurance that they have the commendation and the sympathy of their Divine Lord. Enemies may accuse us; brethren may fail us; notwithstanding, "the Lord stands with us, and strengthens us" (2 Timothy 4:16, 17). - C.

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