This reading gives us a different perspective than we usually think about. Isaiah the mighty seer foretells the Servant of Yahweh, who is the Savior Jesus, as He suffers the shameful torments of sinful men, and how He looks for the vindication of His Father, the Lord God.
We are more used to hearing about how Christ endured the pain of this day because He loved us. And this is true. The love of Christ Jesus our dear Lord is so tremendous and powerful that He kept on the path right up to Calvary in spite of all the crushing burdens He had to bear.
Isaiah does not dispute or deny the love of the Suffering Servant. Instead, He simply does not mention it. He is simply speaking about a different aspect of Christ’s sacrifice.
Isaiah prophesies some of these torments. The Servant’s back would be struck, which was fulfilled in the scourging of the Roman soldiers.
His beard would be pulled out, which is not mentioned in the Gospels. Perhaps this is figurative for the humiliation He suffered. Or perhaps, during the numerous times Christ was savagely beaten from Thursday night through Friday, they also literally pulled at His beard. That would be an excruciating experience.
The Suffering Servant’s face would feel the disgrace of being spit upon. This is not a physically painful thing, but a humiliating insult, an emotional blow that denigrated the Son of God as being subhuman.
Between the horrific pain and the disgrace He had to endure, it was more than an ordinary man could face. These things also had the effect of being accusations against Christ. “You are a despicable criminal, a filthy sinner of such blasphemous character, that you are worthy of being treated this way!” Of course He was not, but He had to be treated as if He were. That is the terrible insulting lie against the glorious Son of God.
In the midst of the torturing actions, He is accused constantly by priests and Pharisees and a host of false witnesses who testify against Him.
Isaiah records the thoughts of the Suffering Servant in reply to the lying accusations: “Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together. Who is My adversary? Let him come near to Me. Behold, the Lord God helps Me. Who will declare Me guilty?”
But our Savior did not speak these thoughts out loud at the time of His trials on earth. He did not defend Himself, but let the accusations fall upon His ears unanswered.
How? How could He endure the shame heaped upon Him? How could He not reply when He could easily disprove them or put them to shame as He had on so many occasions when they tried to entrap Him? Even on Good Friday, He could have confounded them with His wisdom.
But no, He simply endures. As Isaiah says, He sets His face like flint. He hardens His countenance so that He steadfastly goes forward, suffering silently while He kept on, never turned back, never faltered.
Such resolution and patience from our Suffering Servant is explained by Isaiah. The Servant puts His trust in His Father, who will vindicate Him. Christ knows that in the end He will be declared by His Father to be innocent of all the shameful accusations heaped upon Him. Even though He was treated as a vile offender, His Father would say in the end, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
So let them accuse. Only His Father’s opinion matters. The Suffering Servant does not care.
Well, He sort of cares. The arrows of disgrace still hurt. The shameful treatment and painful torture still afflict Him. Especially, the shame of being burdened with the sins of the world upon the Cross hurts Him most of all. Surely all of heaven and hell gasped in awe as the Holy One was treated as the worst of the damned. How much shame was that! To be publicly treated that way must have been an unimaginably horrific terror to fill the soul of the Son of God with crushing agony. That is even apart from the pains of the punishment that the guilt of the world was afflicting upon Him.
But still He kept on. He set His face like flint. He put His hope in His Father. Even when the Father turned His face away from His Son, prompting the anguished cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” - still Christ kept on. As Isaiah reveals, Christ set His hope in His Father beyond what any human senses could detect. “In the end He will vindicate Me! He will declare Me innocent to the whole universe!”
Indeed, all who brought accusations against Christ would wear out like a garment. The Suffering Servant would see them eaten up as when a moth eats up cloth. He would endure, but they would not. They had chosen to oppose Him as if they could destroy Him. But they would be destroyed, because He is the Stone which cannot be destroyed, and all who fall upon that Rock will be pulverized to dust.
For with Christ is resurrection and eternity. That is what His hours of anguish earned for us who believe. All who love the Servant and cling to His sacrifice will see eternity. We will not wear out and be eaten up in eternal death. We will rise.
That is precisely how the Father vindicated His Son. He raised Him on Easter. The shamefulness of Christ’s death was demonstrated to be a lie for the whole cosmos to see. Those accusations were not true. The shame He suffered was not deserved. His death, as the worst sinner ever, was not what He should have received. So the Father raised His Son as if to say, “You are My Son; today I have begotten You,” as another prophecy says. Or as Saint Paul says, “Christ was declared the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead. This is also what Paul means when he says, “He was vindicated by the Spirit,” in First Timothy. There is the vindication that the Suffering Servant was waiting for. The resurrection proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that no shame belongs to the Son of God. Instead, He receives glory and honor and power and might and blessing.
So we see what our Lord has done, and it teaches us much. When we are treated shamefully, where is our hope? When we must endure false accusations and terrible treatment as if we are evil haters, we can set our faces like flint and endure.
We do not always endure patiently. Sometimes our impatient old Adam forgets to trust the promises of God. Sometimes we get anxious and our faces become far softer than flint. Something like pudding or sand comes to mind. For we are no equal of Christ and His perfect patience. But by the Spirit’s grace we seek forgiveness and He strengthens us to do better as we keep our eyes upon the hope set before us.
Here is our hope: The resurrection of the dead. Do not put your hope only in this life. Your vindication comes with the new dawn when all flesh is raised. Then you will not only be raised, but crowned with glory and majesty. This is because you are also sons of God through adoption. The merits and forgiveness Christ earned by suffering are now applied to you. For now this is hidden, but on that day it will be revealed.
As Paul also said, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” These words are much like the words of Isaiah. Who will contend with us? Who is our adversary? Let him come near to us. Behold the Lord God helps us. Who will declare us guilty?
For in Christ, the Father has declared us innocent for all time. The Blood of Christ cannot be nullified by scandalous accusations. Our reputations may be trashed on earth, but the Father’s opinion is the only one that matters.
So we keep on, knowing that He will declare us to be sons of God with power on the day of our resurrection. For we are founded upon our holy Lord and His death and resurrection. What can man do to us? Whatever pain we suffer will pale in comparison with the eternity of glory that is Christ’s gift to us.
The Lord keep us in faith until that wonderful day.
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