Pierced For Our Transgressions (52:13-53:12)

Bible Passage: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

This passage is another of Isaiah’s servant songs that prophesies the coming of the Lord’s servant and was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. It is one of the clearest Old Testament articulations of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement – the idea that Jesus died in our place to take the punishment upon himself that our sins deserved.

Jesus the Man of Sorrows: In the first three verses of Isaiah 53, we are taught who the servant of the Lord would be, particularly with regards to his suffering. We are told that he came from an unexpected place, and this is compared to a root coming out from dry ground. When Jesus came into the world he grew up in a backwater of Galilee called Nazareth, and it had such a reputation that people could ask whether anything good could come from there. We are also told that he had an undesirable image. This isn’t necessarily trying to convey that he was unattractive, but rather that there was nothing about his physical appearance that particularly stood out or drew people to him. He also lived an unwanted life and was rejected and suffered at the hands of those who he came to. He shared in the full human experience (other than sin) and knows personally the struggles and sufferings that we face.

Jesus Pierced For Our Transgressions: Verses 4-6 are the verses that speak of penal substitutionary atonement, and every word in this definition carries weight. Penal speaks of the penalty for sin. Transgressions have been committed and so there is a punishment that needs to be borne. Substitutionary speaks of the fact that Jesus took our place. Though it was our transgressions, it was Jesus who was pierced. He stood in out place to take the punishment that we deserved. Atonement speaks of the restoration of relationship with God through a sacrifice. In the Old Testament this mainly happened through the sacrificial system, but here we see that Jesus is the ultimate atoning sacrifice who can truly deal with our sin and restore us to relationship with God.

Jesus Led Like a Lamb to the Slaughter: In verses 7-9 we are told more about the death of Jesus. We are told that he quietly bore affliction (and we see this in Mark 15:60-61), and then was cut off from the land of the living. This is followed though by verses 10-12 with talk of him prolonging his days, which points to the resurrection. The one who died but would live prolonged days and in whose hands the Lord’s will would prosper. This could only be fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Potential Applications:

  • This is a passage that very clearly presents the gospel and it would be a good moment to invite people to put their trust in Jesus for salvation.
  • The description of Jesus as a man of sorrows is a comforting one, especially for those currently going through their own suffering. You could offer prayer that they know the tender grace and compassion of the saviour who understands what they are going through.
  • This message is at the heart of the Christian faith and it something that needs to be shared. You could challenge people in their evangelism, to keep speaking the great news of the one who was pierced for our transgressions.