Wounded Healer: A great victory looks at first like defeat

Verse: Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

In at least ten places, New Testament writers identify Jesus as the suffering servant. In one instance, Philip corrects an Ethiopian official who wonders if the servant refers to an ancient prophet (see Acts 8:26–35). Isaiah 49—55 includes vivid scenes of the servant’s sufferings, predictions that find their fulfillment in Jesus’ death on the cross.

Indeed this chapter reads almost like an eyewitness account of Jesus’ last days on Earth, even though it was composed centuries before Christ’s death … The physical description—the Bible contains no other physical description of Jesus—is shocking. The servant “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2); he was “like one from whom people hide their faces.” (Isaiah 53:3).

As this chapter foretells, Jesus did not open his mouth to answer his accusers at his trial. He left no descendants. He was cut off in the prime of life and, thanks to a gracious friend, was buried in a rich man’s tomb. But that was not the end; after three days he saw the light of life.

Why the Servant Dies

According to Isaiah, the servant dies for a very specific purpose: “He was pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). He takes on pain for the sake of others, for our sakes. His wounds, an apparent defeat, make possible a great victory. His death seals a future triumph, a time when all that is wrong on Earth will be set right.

Isaiah 53 forms an underlying foundation for much New Testament theology. For example, verse 5 of this chapter claims that the servant’s wounds heal us. The apostle Peter explains it this way: When Jesus died on the cross, his suffering and death “healed” us of our sins, enabling us to live for righteousness (see 1 Peter 2:24).

Convincing Proof

In addition, these detailed prophecies, recorded many centuries before Jesus’ birth, offer convincing proof that God is revealing his plan for the ages through the ancient prophets. He has not permanently severed his covenant with the Jews. Rather, out of Jewish roots—King David’s own stock—he will bring forth a new king, one like no other, to reclaim all the earth.

Life Questions

Who in your life needs to hear about Jesus, the Messiah prophesied about here in Isaiah?

This devotion is from the NIV Student Bible by Zondervan. Used with permission.