There is nothing that sustains the human soul as much as hope. The feeling of a confident, optimistic expectation can calm nerves, relieve heavy hearts, and provide legitimate inspiration for meaningful life. For the children of Israel there was no hope that sustained their feeble faith as much as the hope that one day a Savior, the Messiah, would arise and purchase for them redemption; freedom from the curse of the law.
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the prophet Isaiah hints at Israel’s redemption throughout his book. The concept of redemption for a corrupt people is introduced almost immediately (1:27), and in the midst of external persecution streams of this promised concept continue to flow from his pen. As the cycles of judgment, retribution, and promise intensify an unequaled climax is reached in Isaiah 53. It is in this chapter that a suffering servant is unveiled, the Messiah, who will atone for the sins of his people and purchase redemption for all of humanity through the ages to come. As Isaiah paints a picture of Christ the Messiah and his redemptive work, three key concepts are woven together to aid in the understanding of Jesus and his redemption of mankind. A careful study of Isaiah 53 reveals the person of Christ’s redemptive work, the pain involved in Christ’s redemptive work, and the ultimate purpose of Christ’s redemptive work.
The ambiguity that surrounds the person of the redemptive work described in Isaiah 53 has caused much theological debate. Because the person of the redemptive work is referred to as a “servant” and not explicitly as the Messiah, or the Son of God, several problems have arisen. According to Messianic Jews, because the “servant of God” is at times used in reference to the nation of Israel, this passage is not a picture at all of the redemptive work of Christ but rather a picture of the suffering that has befallen the children of Israel. Others believe that the references in this passage are made to a prior historical character such as the “Second” Isaiah, Darius, or a number of other personalities. Clearly this passage refers to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the person of our redemption.
Christ is the person of our redemption because He is perfect. When the servant that is referred to in this passage is identified as the Righteous One, His identity as Jesus Christ is sealed. Christ alone was a righteous man; although others have tried, no member of the human race has yet achieved sinless perfection. John Watts, who believes that the suffering servant in this passage refers to Darius, is able to allegorize every reference to the servant, and refer his attributes to Darius, except for His righteousness, which he simply leaves out of his commentary. When one applies a consistently literal hermeneutic to the reading of this text, instead of a faulty method of allegorizing it becomes clear that because of his sinless nature, the Righteous One referred to must be Jesus Christ.
The humility (v.2-3) of the Righteous Servant provides another convincing indication that the person referred to in this passage is the Messiah. When he is described as a “root out of a dry ground (v.2),” he is described by way of origins with some of the basest terms used in all of Scripture. Barnes notes that, “The idea in the passage is plain... He would be humble and unpretending in his origin, and would be such that they who had expected a splendid prince would be led to overlook and despise him.” Christ’s humility is also displayed when he is described as “one from whom men hide their faces.” The concept of the humility of Christ in his redemptive work is illustrated elsewhere throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament he is foreshadowed as a “worm,” and a “reproach of men.” In Philippians Paul states that Christ “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.” Nothing could have possibly been more humbling than for the God of eternity to take on human form, and to die a painful death for sinful mankind. Yet the redemption of mankind called for a humble sacrifice. Isaiah 53 points to Jesus Christ, the perfect man, and humble servant, as the person of the redemption of humanity.
The redemptive work of Jesus Christ involved pain taken to almost unimaginable levels. The physical pain that Christ endured on behalf of mankind is described in this passage with amazing prophetic detail. Jesus was “despised and rejected of men,” and endured such physical anguish that Isaiah would say that “we hid as it were our faces from him. (v.3)” The prophecy in this portion of scripture is fulfilled in the synoptic gospels in the unveiling of those who beheld his uncomely form as it was put to death for the sins of humanity. In verse five, the brutal scourging that he endured at the hands of sinners is described, and a tremendous contrast between the souls of mankind and the nature of Christ is revealed. When the prophet declares that “with his stripes we are healed,” the ramifications become apparent. No matter how hard a human tries to accomplish a meaningful task, no matter what his motives are, all of his efforts ultimately result in death. With Jesus Christ, even in the moment of unimaginable pain, His efforts result in life. The physical pain experienced by Christ was necessary for our redemption, for in his wounds of death we receive hope for life.
Crucial to understanding the death of Christ in the redemption of mankind is an understanding of the emotional pain that He bore on behalf of those that He loved. The emotional pain experienced by Christ on the cross is seen in his status as one among the sinners. One of the great ironies in Scripture is that Jesus Christ, the “Righteous One,” would “make his grave with the wicked. (v.9)” The emotional pain involved in Christ doing something that would seem to be so inconsistent with his nature must have been excruciating for him to bear, and yet it is clear that God demanded that an innocent being be sacrificed on behalf of sinful humanity. Christ, being “cut off from the land of the living (v.8),” painfully set aside his perfect nature to identify with sinful humanity and purchase eternal redemption for mankind.
The emotional pain experienced by Christ is seen in the severed relationship between the Father and the Son. Verse six says that the Lord “laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse ten states that it “pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” Moyer states that, “God not only permitted the cross; it was his doing, and it ‘pleased’ him.” Human minds have trouble comprehending how a Father who loves his son could ever see fit to offer him up as a sacrifice for the sins of those who have rejected his precious gift. The mystery of Christ’s death is that it was divinely commissioned by a loving Father on behalf of sinless humanity. The pain involved in this mystery may never be comprehended. The reason for this mystery may never be known. The result of this mystery is purchased redemption for the whole of mankind.
The person of the redemptive work of Christ Jesus as seen in Isaiah 53 has been debated for centuries. Even as we cannot comprehend God’s love for sinners, we will never comprehend the pain endured by Christ on the cross of Calvary. Thankfully there is one principle regarding the redemptive work of Christ Jesus that we can cling to with all of our being. The purpose of our redemption is clear. Jesus Christ “bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors (v.12).” Christ, through his vicarious atonement, redeemed mankind from the curse of the law in order to give hope to a lost and dying world. In order to understand the purpose of the redemption, mankind must understand that he is inherently sinful (v.6), that Christ is eternally righteous (v.11), and that Christ’s perfect sacrifice has made it possible for renewed communication with God (v.12). Mayhue notes that, “Every biblical assurance is that placing faith in Jesus Christ will enable one to remain His son and daughter forever.” This everlasting familial relationship is key to the understanding of the purpose of the redemptive work of Christ portrayed in Isaiah 53.
The doxological purpose of the existence of God is seen in no clearer way than through the purpose for Christ’s redemption. Verse twelve closes with a reference to the Redeemers’ new function as redeemed mankind’s heavenly high priest. As Christ is referred to as the one who makes “intercession” for mankind, the entire prophetic picture of the suffering of the Messiah is closed in glorious fashion. Jesus Christ, compelled by the love of God, has offered a sinless sacrifice in order to purchase sinful mankind. This is the purpose of the redemption.
As Isaiah 53 is read, there is a captivating emotion that seems to swell in the heart of the reader. This is the emotion of hope. Through the person of Christ’s redemption Isaiah reveals a perfect, sinless Jesus Christ. When describing the pain involved in Christ’s redemption, Isaiah causes the reader to reflect on the agonizing physical and emotional torment endured by the Redeemer. Finally, in unveiling the purpose for the redemption, Isaiah reveals the reason for the “hope that is in” every penitent sinner. Christ’s redemptive work has made an everlasting relationship with God a possibility to all who will believe. Let us say with the apostle Paul that we know “Christ, and him crucified.”
 Alfred Martin, Isaiah; The Salvation of Jehovah (Chicago: Moody Press, 1956), 89.
 Edward J. Young, Of Whom Speaketh the Prophet This? (Westminster Theological Journal Volume 11: 1949), 154.
 It seems that there is no limit to the interpretations of who this servant refers to. Although many beliefs by many well meaning men exist, it is appropriate in light of the explanation of the servant in Isaiah 53 to believe dogmatically that the man referred to is Christ.
 New American Standard Bible
 Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12
 John D. Watts, “Isaiah 34-66,” Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1987), Volume 25: 232.
 Albert Barnes, “Isaiah,” Barnes on the Old Testament (Ann Arbor: Cushing-Malloy, Inc., 1979), Volume 2: 260.
 English Standard Version
 Psalm 22:6
 Philippians 2:8
Mark 15:40; Luke 23:49; John 19:25
 Isaiah 64:6 is clear to point out that there is nothing that a human can do to gain favor with God. All of our fruitless efforts are seen by the God of eternity as filthy rags. Because we, despite our efforts, achieve nothing but death, we are in desperate need of redemption through a person that is able to bring us life.
 John Calvin, “Isaiah 33-66,” Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), Volume 8: 117.
 David R. Dilling, The Atonement and Human Sacrifice. (Grace Journal Volume 5: 1964), 28.
Robert L. Moyer, Christ in Isaiah Fifty-Three. (Twin Cities: Bruce Publishing, 1936), 70.
 Merwin A. Stone, The Successful Achievement of the Servant. (Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 91: 1934), 343.
 Richard L. Mayhue, For what did Christ Atone in Isaiah 54:4-5?. (Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 6: 1995), 129.
David Baron, The Servant of Jehovah. (Minneapolis: James Family Publishing, 1978), 140.
 I Peter 3:15
 I Corinthians 2:2