December 16: The Suffering Servant, Born to Die

Born to Die 001

December 16

The Suffering Servant, Born to Die

Advent reading: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

Isaiah 53 is one of the most remarkable chapters in the Bible, sometimes called “the forbidden chapter” because it is avoided by Jewish rabbis. Many Jews, reading it for the first time, have come to faith in the Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.

This passage has inspired hymns such as “The Healer” (“He was wounded for our transgressions…”) and “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

If there is any doubt that Isaiah was referring to the coming Messiah, Jesus makes it clear. The night before his crucifixion, quoting from Isaiah 53:12, Jesus himself declares that he was born to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy:

Luke 22:37 (ESV)  —  For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

As we celebrate Christmas, we must not forget that the baby in the manger was born to die. He would be God’s Suffering Servant.

This passage actually begins in chapter 52, verse 13. God calls us to fix our eyes on Jesus: 

Isaiah 52:13 (ESV)  —  Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.


Christ would be “high and lifted up” on the cross, and after the resurrection he would be exalted to the right hand of God (John 12:32-33; Philippians 2:8-11).

Yet on the cross, his appearance would be astonishing:

Isaiah 52:14 (ESV)  —  As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

What is this? A crucified Christ? What a contradiction of terms! How could he be the Christ, the anointed one, and yet be cursed by God for “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23). Surely he is “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).


Yes, it is true. Christ Jesus was smitten by God. “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (53:10). 

But why? “He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (53:9). He is “the righteous one, my Servant” (v. 11). Why did God smite his Servant, his Son? Why did the LORD want to crush him? Why did he put him to grief?

The LORD makes it clear that his righteous Servant bore the punishment for our sins. He was numbered with the transgressors; he was numbered with us (v. 12). “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (v. 6). He bore the sin of many (v. 12). He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities (v. 5). He was punished for our transgressions (v. 8). His soul was an offering for sin (v. 10). As the Apostle Paul puts it,

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)  —  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


The lamb or goat that is sacrificed as an offering for sin, that victim dies never to live again. But God’s Servant “will see the light of life and be satisfied” (v. 11, NIV). He lives again and is satisfied because “by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many.” Through our knowledge of the Suffering Servant who died for our sins, we become part of the portion that is given to him.

Let us contemplate the meaning of Christmas. The baby born in Bethlehem was born to die and live again, that we might know him and through him be justified.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s