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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Isaiah 53

John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Isaiah 53


John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Isaiah 53
John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Isaiah 53
TOPICS: Great Chapters of the Bible, Bible Study, Isaiah 53

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. The desert can be a harsh, unforgiving environment. The Sahara Desert covers an area of 3.5 million square miles. In some places it gets .003 inches of rain a year. The Arabian Desert's almost a million square miles, and while the Atacama Desert in Chile is much smaller, it's incredibly dry. The largest deserts in the world are the Antarctic and the Arctic deserts, both around 5.5 million square miles in area. Now, you'll find people who say they love the desert. There's no doubt that while a desert isn't the Oregon coast or the Swiss Alps, there's a real beauty to the desert, a real attractiveness.

However, there's no getting around the fact that the desert is tough. One man who found that out the hard way, well, maybe, was Everett Ruess. Twenty-year-old Everett Ruess from California was an artist who often explored the deserts of the American Southwest alone. In 1934 he went missing in a remote part of Utah. The question became, whatever happened to Everett Ruess? Was he injured in a fall? Was he murdered? Did he engineer his own disappearance? Decades after the young man disappeared, DNA tests proved that bones thought to be those of Everett Ruess... were not.

However, one writer claims the young man's remains were indeed found and that markings discovered on the wall of a cave were made by the wandering artist shortly before he perished. Whatever the truth about Ruess, whose story has been described by the New York Times as "one of the most enduring mysteries of the modern West," we know that it proves yet again the desert is a hard place. It's not the sort of environment you can afford to take lightly. In the Bible, the children of Israel wandered in a desert wilderness for 40 years. There was no water for them to drink, no food for them to eat, so God brought water from a rock and blanketed the ground with manna.

And one of the most fascinating encounters you read about in all of the New Testament takes place in a desert after God actually sends someone on a walk for miles through that harsh environment. This is Acts chapter 8, and we start in verse 26. "Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, 'Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes... from Jerusalem to Gaza.' This is desert". It's not clear by looking at the text if God was telling Philip it was desert, or if Dr. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, was making it clear for his readers. Whoever was telling the story, Philip was dispatched by God to walk from Jerusalem to the southwest of Israel. Challenging country.

So why does God send a man into the wilderness? He didn't explain to Philip at the time what his journey was for, but like Abraham journeying across the wilderness from Mesopotamia, like Moses leading Israel out of Egypt, he simply followed God's direction. And that's faith. Following where God leads, going where God calls, that's faith. Philip was a man of faith. In Acts chapter 8, an Ethiopian man, an official in the government of Queen Candace, a man who had been to Jerusalem to worship, was riding in a chariot, reading from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Philip approached him and asked him if he understood what he was reading. He said he did not.

And what was the passage of Scripture that he was considering? He was reading from the chapter that we're looking at today as part of our ongoing series, "Great Chapters of the Bible". See if you can recognize this. It's Acts chapter 8:32 and 33. "The place in the Scripture [where] he read was this: 'He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.'" The man was reading from Isaiah 53, one of the most incredible, one of the most moving Old Testament descriptions of the sufferings of Jesus. Once Philip was seated in the chariot, the Ethiopian official turned and asked him, "Of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man"?

That's verse 34. Who's Isaiah talking about? It's interesting, and I think it's quite phenomenal, that in some circles there's actually some debate about this. Certain commentators, some of them Christian, some of them Jewish, believe that Isaiah 53 is referring to the nation of Israel. Well, let's see what the passage says. We'll find out what other Bible writers say, whether they agree with that position or not. Verse 35 says, "Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him". John 12:37 and 38 say, "But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: 'Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'" Which would seem clear.

Matthew 8:16 and 17 says, "And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.'" So from a biblical point of view, the burden of Isaiah 53 is clear: the suffering Messiah. And like no other chapter in the Old Testament and like few in the entire Bible, Isaiah 53 reveals to us the enormous love of God for a sinful world. And so we're going to turn to Isaiah chapter 53, but before we do, let's look at how Isaiah 52 concludes: "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider".

That's Isaiah 52:13-15. You could say that's where Isaiah 53 really starts. Look at what's almost contradictory in those verses. The person being described is said to be exalted and extolled very high, yet He'll suffer terribly, His face marred by anguish, more than any other human being has experienced. This was fulfilled in Jesus. But what would cause Him to suffer so much? And why would He choose to suffer so intensely? We'll look at that in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Today, another great chapter of the Bible. We're looking at Isaiah 53, a sublimely beautiful chapter that speaks of the sufferings of Jesus. Isaiah looked forward to what Luke would write about in Luke 22, where he describes Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke tells us that Jesus poured His heart out to God, and "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground". The pain in Jesus' heart was so great that He begged His Father, "If it is Your will, [remove] this cup...from me; nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done". It's no wonder Jesus suffered so intensely. The Bible says that He became sin for us, as the sins of the world were placed upon Him.

Now, here's Isaiah chapter 53, and we'll start with the first two verses. "Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form [nor] comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him". Now, that's an evocative way to start a chapter. "Who has believed", or who would have believed this? This isn't what you might expect from the Messiah, from the Deliverer of Israel, from the Savior of the world. This Jesus was a tender plant and, at the same time, "as a root out of dry ground," with nothing about Him that would necessarily attract a person's attention.

It's important to realize Jesus didn't come to the earth to attract attention to Himself. He didn't come imbued with the beauty or attractiveness that society places such a high value on. If people were going to appreciate Jesus, they were going to be drawn to His character, to what was on the inside. They'd be attracted to the way that He represented His Father. If you've seen me, you've seen the Father, said Jesus. And that was the purpose of His mission to this earth: to reveal to the world what His Father was truly like. Really, the purpose of the believer in this world is exactly the same. The human desire is often to attract attention, to get praise, to gain notoriety.

In our age, pretty much anyone with an internet connection can communicate with millions of people at once. And there's never been an age like this for attracting attention, for having people notice you. That can be a really dangerous way to go. But Jesus didn't come to the earth to attract attention to Himself. There's a lesson there for all of us. That's not to say that Jesus was physically or personally unattractive, but people weren't drawn to Jesus because of how He looked or because He was rich and powerful. In fact, when someone came to Him wanting to be His disciple, Jesus made it clear that that person wasn't about to gain any worldly advantage. As He said in Matthew 8, verse 20, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head". But what Jesus can give you is what really matters.

Now, let's look together in Isaiah chapter 53 and verse 3. "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, or faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him". John 1, verse 11 says that Jesus "came unto His own, and His own received Him not". Try getting your mind around that. He created the universe. He's responsible for every single life that has ever been lived. His power upholds every living soul. And yet when He came to the earth, those He created especially to be saved, despised Him and rejected Him. Would a person really do that? Here was Jesus coming to the earth to give life, and yet people rejected Him and chose death.

Let me ask you: What are you choosing? Isaiah chapter 53 and verse 4 says, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted". That's what Jesus came to the earth to do: to bear your griefs and carry your sorrows. Think about that. What does that suggest? What kind of God does that speak of? It reminds me of Isaiah 66:13, which says, "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you". What a picture. As tender as a mother's comfort is the comfort of God. You can lean on Him. You can fall into His arms. When you need comfort, God says, "I'll comfort you". Jesus said, "Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest".

That's Matthew 11, verse 28. Are you getting the picture here? All this talk you hear about God being cruel and unkind and hard, you want to forget that as quickly as possible. The God of heaven bears your griefs and carries your sorrows. It was in His suffering and death that we saw Jesus stricken, smitten, and afflicted as Isaiah described. "Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 'He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, "I am the Son of God".'"

That's Matthew 27:41-43. David forecast this when he wrote in Psalm 22, "All [those who] see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 'He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!'" Psalm 22, verses 7 and 8. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death". Sin separates from God, and because we've chosen sin, death is our lot. We have earned it. But Jesus, thank God, Jesus wouldn't leave it at that. He did all He could to deliver us from death.

"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all". Those are verses 5 and 6. Paul wrote that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". We rebelled, we sinned, we deserve to be separated from God forever, and yet He was wounded for our transgressions when He died on the cross. It's by His stripes that we're healed, through His death that we have life.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, verse 3, "Christ died for our sins". Where Isaiah writes, "By His stripes we are healed," you see a clear prediction of the kind of punishment that Jesus would suffer when He was scourged by the Romans before Pontius Pilate. I imagine there are times you look at the, the sin in your life, the rottenness in your own heart. Often people do that, and they'll say, "How can somebody like me be saved? How can I possibly be forgiven"? Well, here's your answer. Jesus died so that you could live. When you couldn't save yourself, Jesus said, "I'll save you". No, we don't deserve it, but God offers us everlasting life all the same, freely. He saves us. "By His stripes we are healed". I'll be back with more in a moment.

Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Isaiah chapter 53 is truly one of the great chapters of the Bible. It tells the story of the death of Christ Jesus for sinners. It's the gospel story beautifully told by the one often referred to as the gospel prophet. The chapter tells us that Jesus died as humanity's substitute. He took the penalty of sin for every person. The New Testament speaks of how this prophecy was fulfilled. Remember, God told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that if they ate the forbidden fruit, they would die. So why didn't they die that very day? Because Jesus stepped in and said, "I will die instead".

That's why the book of Revelation calls Jesus "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" in Revelation 13, verse 8. The Apostle Paul writes that just as Adam led the entire world into sin, Jesus took the penalty of all our sins, and because of this, He is able, if we confess and forsake our sins, to forgive our sins and impart to us His righteousness. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous". That's Romans 5, verse 19. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him". Second Corinthians 5, verse 21.

When the movie "The Passion of the Christ" was released in 2004, some said that the film was anti-Semitic because it blamed Jewish people for putting Jesus to death. But the fact is that according to the prophet Isaiah, according to the entire Bible, we all put Him to death. That's why Isaiah declares, "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all". Isaiah 53, verse 6. And now verse 7: "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He [was led] as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before [its] shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth".

Seven or eight hundred years in advance, Isaiah described how Jesus would handle the abuse heaped upon Him. He never retaliated. The Savior of the world was being cruelly treated by the wickedest of men, and as Peter wrote, "When He was reviled, [He] reviled not again". When the high priest accused Jesus, the Bible says Jesus kept silent. When Pilate quizzed Him, John 19, verse 9 says, "Jesus gave...no answer". He didn't even attempt to defend Himself. Isaiah 53, verse 9: "And they made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich [in] His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth". He died between two thieves, among the wicked, and He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, "with the rich in His death".

And yet Isaiah 53 is a chapter with a triumphant ending. Jesus died for our sins, but that was a triumph. Jesus was victorious. Satan couldn't break Him. He didn't fall into sin, and He secured our salvation. We pick it up in verse 10: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him". Oh, not that God delighted in the suffering of His Son, but it pleased Him inasmuch that through the death of Jesus you could have eternal life. The thought goes further in verse 11: "He shall see...the travail of His soul, and...be satisfied: by His knowledge... my righteous Servant [shall] justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities".

Now, you notice that? Jesus looked forward, beyond His death, and was satisfied. Now, He knew that the cross would be horrendous, but He considered it all worth it because you would be saved. How's that? Jesus was faced with death, but He considered it all worthwhile because you could be justified and sanctified and live with Him forever. Verse 12: "Therefore I will divide [with] Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors".

Jesus bore the sins of the whole world so that all who desire can have their sins forgiven. The Apostle John speaks of how "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin". First John 1 and verse 7. And Jesus would make intercession for the transgressors. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament says the same thing, declaring that "He ever lives to make intercession for us". That's Hebrews 7:25. Jesus intercedes for you with God, and secures for you, if you want it, pardon and power. Through Christ you're forgiven, and then sin doesn't have dominion over you. Filled with the presence of Jesus, you're empowered by the Holy Spirit to live an entirely new life.

The government official from Ethiopia read the story of Christ in Isaiah 53, and he came face to face with this incredible gift. He'd witnessed the sacrifices in the temple; now he knew what they meant. Jesus came to the world as the true Lamb, the sacrifice for sin, so that through faith in Him we could live, forgiven, pardoned, cleansed, not guilty, made new. So how did our friend from Ethiopia respond to the gospel story in Isaiah 53? In Acts 8 and verse 36, the man suggests that he be baptized.

Now, here's Acts 8:37 and on. "Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing".

There's a Rembrandt depicting the baptism of the Ethiopian man, a fine painting, but inaccurate because it shows Philip sprinkling a little water on the Ethiopian man's head. The text says that he "came up out of the water". He'd been in the water being baptized. But even more importantly, the man who had surrendered his life to Jesus went on his way rejoicing. Now, I want to encourage you to read Isaiah chapter 53. You'll see Jesus there, your Savior, offering you forgiveness of sin and the promise of a new life. And if you welcome that Jesus into your heart, you'll go on your way rejoicing.

Let's pray together now:

Our Father in heaven, we're grateful today for Jesus, "despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," He died that terrible death on an old rugged cross, but He beheld "the travail of His soul" and was satisfied. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, He was satisfied. As His life was draining out of Him, He was satisfied, because He looked forward to this day and saw people all around the world saying yes to Jesus and no to an old life, yes to Jesus and no to sin. Oh, dear Father, Your love for this earth is so great You allowed Your only begotten Son to die that we might live.


Friend, would you accept that life from Jesus today? Would you open up your heart to the God of heaven and say, "I want that life; I want that Savior to be my Savior"? As you do, you have salvation. As you do, you have everlasting life. As you do, you can go forward confident that you're a child of God.

Heavenly Father, we thank You today for Jesus, who died that we might live. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


Thank you so much for joining me. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next time. Until then, remember: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
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