Jehovah’s Servant—“Pierced for Our Transgression”
“He was being pierced for our transgression; he was being crushed for our errors. . . . Because of his wounds there has been a healing for us.”—ISA. 53:5.
1. What should we keep in mind when we observe the Memorial, and what prophecy will help us to do so?
WE OBSERVE the Memorial to commemorate Christ’s death and to remember all that his death and resurrection have accomplished. The Memorial reminds us of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty, the sanctification of his name, and the fulfillment of his purpose, including the salvation of mankind. Perhaps no other prophecy in the Bible better depicts Christ’s sacrifice and what it has accomplished than the one recorded at Isaiah 53:3-12. Isaiah foretold the Servant’s sufferings and provided specific details about Christ’s death and about the blessings his death would result in for his anointed brothers and his “other sheep.”—John 10:16.
2. Of what is Isaiah’s prophecy a proof, and what effect will it have on us?
2 Seven centuries before Jesus’ birth on earth, Jehovah inspired Isaiah to prophesy that His chosen Servant would be faithful even when tested to the limit. This very fact is proof of Jehovah’s absolute confidence in his Son’s loyalty. As we examine this prophecy, our hearts will be warmed and our faith will be strengthened.
“Despised” and Held “as of No Account”
3. Why should the Jews have welcomed Jesus, but how did they receive him?
3 Read Isaiah 53:3. Just imagine what it must have meant for the only-begotten Son of God to forgo the joy of serving at his Father’s side and come to earth to give his life in sacrifice to save mankind from sin and death! (Phil. 2:5-8) His sacrifice was to accomplish real forgiveness of sins, which the offering of animal sacrifices under the Mosaic Law only foreshadowed. (Heb. 10:1-4) Should he not have been welcomed and honored, at least by the Jews, who were awaiting the promised Messiah? (John 6:14) Instead, the Christ was “despised” by the Jews, and they “held him as of no account,” as Isaiah had prophesied. The apostle John wrote: “He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.” (John 1:11) The apostle Peter told the Jews: “The God of our forefathers . . . has glorified his Servant, Jesus, whom you, for your part, delivered up and disowned before Pilate’s face, when he had decided to release him. Yes, you disowned that holy and righteous one.”—Acts 3:13, 14.
4. How did Jesus become acquainted with sickness?
4 Isaiah also prophesied that Jesus was meant to have “acquaintance with sickness.” During his ministry, Jesus certainly got tired on occasion, but there is no indication that he got sick. (John 4:6) He did, however, become acquainted with the sicknesses of those to whom he preached. He felt pity for them and healed many. (Mark 1:32-34) Jesus thus fulfilled the prophecy that states: “Truly our sicknesses were what he himself carried; and as for our pains, he bore them.”—Isa. 53:4a; Matt. 8:16, 17.
As if “Stricken by God”
5. How did many of the Jews view Jesus’ death, and why did this add to his suffering?
5 Read Isaiah 53:4b. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries did not understand the reason for his suffering and death. They believed that God was punishing him, as if plaguing him with a loathsome disease. (Matt. 27:38-44) The Jews charged Jesus with blasphemy. (Mark 14:61-64; John 10:33) Of course, Jesus was neither a sinner nor a blasphemer. But in view of his great love for his Father, the very idea that he was to die accused of blasphemy must have added to his suffering as Jehovah’s Servant. Nevertheless, he was willing to submit to Jehovah’s will.—Matt. 26:39.
6, 7. In what sense did Jehovah ‘crush’ his faithful Servant, and why did this bring God “delight”?
6 It is one thing for Isaiah’s prophecy to state that others would account Christ as “stricken by God” but quite another for the prophecy to foretell: “Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him.” (Isa. 53:10) Since Jehovah had also stated: “Look! My servant, . . . my chosen one, whom my soul has approved,” how could Jehovah possibly take “delight in crushing him”? (Isa. 42:1) In what sense can it be said that this brought Jehovah joy?
7 To understand this part of the prophecy, we should remember that in challenging Jehovah’s sovereignty, Satan cast doubt on the loyalty of all of God’s servants in heaven and on earth. (Job 1:9-11; 2:3-5) Jesus, by remaining faithful to death, provided the perfect answer to Satan’s challenge. Thus, while Jehovah permitted Christ to be killed by his enemies, there can be no doubt that Jehovah suffered when he saw his chosen Servant being put to death. However, observing his Son’s absolute faithfulness brought Jehovah much delight. (Prov. 27:11) Furthermore, knowing the benefits that his Son’s death would bring to repentant humans brought Jehovah great joy.—Luke 15:7.
“Pierced for Our Transgression”
8, 9. (a) How was Jesus “pierced for our transgression”? (b) How did Peter confirm this?
8 Read Isaiah 53:6. Like lost sheep, sinful humans have wandered about, seeking deliverance from the sickness and death inherited from Adam. (1 Pet. 2:25) Being imperfect, not one of Adam’s descendants could buy back what Adam had forfeited. (Ps. 49:7) In his great love, however, “Jehovah himself has caused the error of us all to meet up with that one,” his dear Son and chosen Servant. By consenting to be “pierced for our transgression” and “crushed for our errors,” Christ carried our sins upon the stake and died in our place.
9 The apostle Peter wrote: “To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. 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.” Then, quoting from Isaiah’s prophecy, Peter added: “And ‘by his stripes you were healed.’” (1 Pet. 2:21, 24; Isa. 53:5) This opened the way for sinners to become reconciled to God, as Peter further stated: “Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God.”—1 Pet. 3:18.
“Brought Just Like a Lamb to the Slaughtering”
10. (a) How did John the Baptizer describe Jesus? (b) Why did John’s words prove to be fitting?
10 Read Isaiah 53:7, 8. When John the Baptizer saw Jesus approaching, he exclaimed: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) In speaking of Jesus as a Lamb, John may have had in mind the words of Isaiah: “He was being brought just like a lamb to the slaughtering.” (Isa. 53:7, ftn.) “He poured out his soul to the very death,” prophesied Isaiah. (Isa. 53:12) Interestingly, on the night when Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, he gave a cup of wine to the 11 faithful apostles and stated: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.”—Matt. 26:28.
11, 12. (a) What does Isaac’s willingness to be offered up illustrate about Christ’s sacrifice? (b) What should we keep in mind about the Greater Abraham, Jehovah, when we observe the Memorial?
11 Like Isaac of old, Jesus was willing to be offered up as a sacrifice on the altar of Jehovah’s will for him. (Gen. 22:1, 2, 9-13; Heb. 10:5-10) While Isaac willingly consented to being sacrificed, it was Abraham who attempted to offer the sacrifice. (Heb. 11:17) Similarly, Jesus willingly accepted that he was to die, but it was Jehovah who was the Author of the ransom arrangement. The sacrifice of his Son was an expression of God’s deep love for mankind.
12 Jesus himself stated: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The apostle Paul wrote: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Therefore, while honoring Christ by commemorating his death, we should never forget that the one who made the sacrificial arrangement possible was the Greater Abraham, Jehovah. We observe the Memorial to his praise.
The Servant Brings “a Righteous Standing to Many”
13, 14. How has Jehovah’s Servant brought “a righteous standing to many”?
13 Read Isaiah 53:11, 12. Of his chosen Servant, Jehovah stated: “The righteous one, my servant, will bring a righteous standing to many people.” In what way? The end of verse 12 gives us a clue to the answer. “And for the transgressors he [the Servant] proceeded to interpose.” All of Adam’s descendants are born sinners, “transgressors,” and therefore receive “the wages sin pays,” namely, death. (Rom. 5:12; 6:23) Reconciliation between Jehovah and sinful man is necessary. Chapter 53 of Isaiah’s prophecy describes beautifully how Jesus ‘interposed,’ or interceded, on behalf of sinful mankind, stating: “The chastisement meant for our peace was upon him, and because of his wounds there has been a healing for us.”—Isa. 53:5.
14 By taking our sins upon himself and dying for us, Christ brought “a righteous standing to many people.” Paul wrote: “God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile again to himself all other things by making peace through the blood he shed on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens.”—Col. 1:19, 20.
15. (a) Who are “the things in the heavens” mentioned by Paul? (b) Who alone are entitled to partake of the Memorial emblems, and why?
15 “The things in the heavens” that are reconciled to Jehovah by means of Christ’s shed blood are the anointed Christians, called to reign with Christ in the heavens. Christians who are “partakers of the heavenly calling” are declared “righteous for life.” (Heb. 3:1; Rom. 5:1, 18) Jehovah then begets them as spiritual sons. The holy spirit bears witness to them that they are “joint heirs with Christ,” called to become kings and priests in his heavenly Kingdom. (Rom. 8:15-17; Rev. 5:9, 10) They become part of spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God,” and they are taken into the “new covenant.” (Jer. 31:31-34; Gal. 6:16) As members of the new covenant, they are entitled to partake of the Memorial emblems, including the cup of red wine, of which Jesus stated: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”—Luke 22:20.
16. What are “the things upon the earth,” and in what way are they given a righteous standing before Jehovah?
16 “The things upon the earth” are Christ’s other sheep, who have the hope of living forever on earth. To these also Jehovah’s chosen Servant brings a righteous standing before Jehovah. Because they have faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice and thus “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” Jehovah declares them righteous, not as spiritual sons, but as his friends, giving them the wonderful prospect of surviving “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:9, 10, 14; Jas. 2:23) Not being in the new covenant and therefore not having the hope of living in heaven, these other sheep do not partake of the Memorial emblems but attend as respectful observers.
All Thanks to Jehovah and His Approved Servant!
17. How has a study of the prophecies in Isaiah that center on the Servant helped us to prepare our minds for the Memorial?
17 The examination of the prophecies in Isaiah that center on the Servant has been a fine way to prepare our minds for the Memorial of Christ’s death. It has enabled us to “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) We have learned that God’s Son is not rebellious. Unlike Satan, he delights in being taught by Jehovah, recognizing him as the Sovereign Lord. We have seen that during Jesus’ earthly ministry, he showed compassion for the people to whom he preached, healing many of them both physically and spiritually. He thus demonstrated what he will do as Messianic King in the new system of things when “he sets justice in the earth.” (Isa. 42:4) The zeal he showed in preaching the Kingdom, as “a light of the nations,” is a reminder to his followers to preach the good news zealously throughout the earth.—Isa. 42:6.
18. Why does Isaiah’s prophecy fill our hearts with gratitude to Jehovah and to his faithful Servant?
18 Isaiah’s prophecy also enhances our understanding of the great sacrifice Jehovah made when he sent his dear Son to earth to suffer and die for us. Jehovah delighted, not in seeing his Son suffer, but in observing Jesus’ absolute faithfulness to the very death. We should share Jehovah’s delight, recognizing all that Jesus did to prove Satan a liar and sanctify Jehovah’s name, thus vindicating the rightfulness of His sovereignty. In addition, Christ took our sins upon himself and died in our behalf. In that way, he made it possible for the little flock of his anointed brothers and for the other sheep to have a righteous standing before Jehovah. As we gather together for the Memorial, may our hearts be filled with gratitude to Jehovah and to his faithful Servant.
By Way of Review
• In what sense did Jehovah ‘take delight’ in his Son’s being ‘crushed’?
• How was Jesus “pierced for our transgression”?
• How did the Servant “bring a righteous standing to many”?
• How has a study of the prophecies regarding the Servant prepared your mind and heart for the Memorial?
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“He was despised, and we held him as of no account”
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“He poured out his soul to the very death”
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The “other sheep” attend the Memorial as respectful observers