Is the Isaiah 53 prophecy fulfilled by Jesus?

“Yes, after all…
  • v2 says “He has no stately form or majesty”

      Isaiah 53:2 says “He has no stately form or majesty. This is relevant because Jesus too was seen merely as a poor sage, with a trivial pedigree, and coming from an unimportant town.1 He lacked the glory and trappings of royalty.2

      1. Matthew 13:55-57 -- Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
        John 1:45-46 --Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
      2. During his ministry, Jesus and his disciples depended entirely on the donations of others.
        Matthew 10:9-11-- Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.
        Luke 9:58 -- And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
  • v3 says “He was despised ... we didn't esteem him”

      Isaiah 53:3 says “He was despised … we did not esteem him. This is relevant because Jesus too was widely hated and rejected by the Jews.1

      Jn 19:14-15 -- And [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!”

      1. Several scriptures testify to the Jews' harsh rejection of Jesus (Mark 3:1-6, Luke 22:47-71). For example:
        Jn 19:21 -- the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’
        John 8:48 -- The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (See Matthew 12:22-24)
        Luke 4:16-30 -- And He came to Nazareth,... And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown ... they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him ... in order to throw Him down the cliff.
        Luke 23:18-25 -- But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man [Jesus], and release for us Barabbas!” (He was one who had been thrown into prison for ... murder.) ... they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. ... he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.
  • v4 says “we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God”

      Isaiah 53:4 says “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. This is relevant because Jesus too was regarded as being under the curse of God. 1

      1. We know Jesus was regarded as the subject of God's wrath because Jesus was crucified. This is relevant because anyone crucified was seen as being under the curse of God. The following scripture was applied by Jews to the crucified:
        Deuteronomy 21:23 -- his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree... For he who is hanged is accursed of God
  • v5 says “He was pierced for our transgressions”

      Isaiah 53:5 says “But He was pierced through [wounded] for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him. This is relevant because Jesus was similarly wounded for our transgressions.1

      1. Jesus was crucified (Jn 19:16, cf. 20:25).

        Acts 2:23 -- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross
        Colossians 2:14 -- He has taken [our sin debt] out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

  • v5 says “by His scourging we are healed”

      Isaiah 53:5 says “But He was pierced through for our transgressions,… for our iniquities … by His scourging we are healed. This is relevant for two reasons. First, the historical Jesus was scourged.1 Second, at least in concept, through Jesus's crucifixion we are spiritually healed,2 and this is the kind of healing Isaiah 53 refers to.3

      1. For reports on the historical scourging of Jesus:
        Mark 15:15 -- Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
        Jn 19:1 -- Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.
      2. Jesus, in concept, died in a way that provided substitutionary atonement for the wicked. (For scriptures, see comments on v8.1 This is what brings the healing for us.
      3. The focus is on spiritual healing because contextually the sickness is spiritual.
        • Isaiah 53:5 -- But He was pierced through for our transgressions,He was crushed for our iniquities;The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,And by His scourging we are healed.
  • v6 says “[God] caused our iniquity To fall on Him”

      Isaiah 53:6 says “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. This is relevant because Jesus, in concept, died in a way that provided substitutionary atonement for the wicked. (For scriptures, see comments on v8).1

  • v7 says “He didn't object; as a lamb led to slaughter”

      Isaiah 53:7 says “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. This is relevant because it describes Jesus perfectly, in his affliction, his acceptance of being slaughtered.1 (Similarly, for his being a lamb.)2

      1 Peter 2:23 -- When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.

      1. Jesus remained silent when confronted and sentenced by Pilate and the chief priests (Mt 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9) as well as Herod (Luke 23:8-9). Jesus also turned himself over without a fight the night he was arrested.
      2. Jn 1:29, 36 -- “lamb of God”; (cf. Ex 5:6 -- “Lamb… to slaughter”) Ps 44:22, Rev 5:6.
  • v8 says the Servant would die

      Isaiah 53:8 says “He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? This is relevant because Jesus was executed by crucifixion, and this was regarded as involving God's judgment, being a substitutionary atonement for the transgressions of sinners everywhere.

  • v8 says his death was subtitutionary atonement

      Isaiah 53:8 says “He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? This is relevant because Jesus too was seen as a substitutionary sacrifice for the transgressions of the guilty.1

      1. Scriptures which expound on the substitutionary nature of Jesus's deed include:
        1 Peter 2:22 -- and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
        1 Peter 3:18 -- For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
        2 Corinthians 5:21 -- He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
        Galatians 3:10 -- For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”
  • v10 says the Servant is a “guilt offering”

      Isaiah 53:10 says “He would render Himself as a guilt offering. This is relevant because Jesus's death was precisely understood this way.1

      But wait, the guilt offering has nothing to do with blood here.1

      1. Bernd Jandowski translates this as “the means of wiping out guilt,”

        Bernd Jandowski: “there is no mention of the blood of the Servant, nor is the Servant seen in the role of a sacrificial animal ritually slaughtered by a priestly official.” Instead “The term comes... from contexts in which--as in Genesis 26:10 and 1 Samuel 6:3-4, 9, 18 etc.---guilt-incurring encroachments and their reparation of the theme.” [“He Bore Our Sins: Isaiah 53 and the Drama of Taking Another's Place,” in Suffering Servant, 65.] But consider two points in response.
        • The guilt offering was also about guilt-incurring encroachments and their reparation. (for example, “guilt offering" in 1 Sam 6),
        • The point is that the servant serves a substitutionary role.

  • v10 etc. says the Servant is sinless

      Isaiah 53:10 says the Servant is sinless. This is relevant because Jesus too was sinless (at least according to tradition). [Note: If one wants to loosen this to being extremely righteous, then Jesus fulfills this as well.]

      1. The implication that the servant is sinless comes from multiple points:
        The servant is a “guilt offering” which refers to an unblemished lamb. In Hebrew though, blemishes represented uncleanliness and sin, and by contrast, being unblemished signified cleanliness and being free of sin.
        • The Servant is described as righteous.
        • The servant reportedly “had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” Such humility and honesty is characteristic of one innocent and sinless, and calls to mind the “unblemished” guilt offering requirement.
  • Jesus fits the Servant of Isaiah 40-50

      Jesus fits the context of Isaiah 53, fitting Isaiah 42:4, 49:1-7, and 50:4-8. 1

      1. Isaiah 42:4 -- “He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.” This is relevant because through Christ's church ("the body of Christ"), justice, liberty, rights, equality, and fairness have flourished all over the world in a way unseen in history. The remotest “coastlands” on the Earth are experiencing the spread of this and turning to Christ.
      2. Isaiah 49:1-7 -- Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar.The Lord called Me from the womb;From the body of My mother He named Me.2 He has made My mouth like a sharp sword,In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me;And He has also made Me a select arrow,He has hidden Me in His quiver.3 He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel,In Whom I will show My glory.”4 But I said, “I have toiled in vain,I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the Lord,And My reward with My God.”5 And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him(For I am honored in the sight of the Lord,And My God is My strength),6 He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One,To the despised One,To the One abhorred by the nation,To the Servant of rulers,“Kings will see and arise,Princes will also bow down,Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.” This is relevant for several reasons. For example, Jesus too, having been rejected at first by his fellow Jews ("abhorred by the nation"), would say “I have toiled in vain.... Yet surely the justice due to me is with the LORD” and yet also ultimately triumphs, being “a light ot the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
      3. Isaiah 50:4-8 -- The Lord God has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient Nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. He who vindicates Me is near; [Who is among you... obeys the voice of His servant...?] This is relevant for several reasons. For example, Jesus too righteously turned the other cheek and was harassed, spitted on, and faced humiliation. Jesus too yet was vindicated by God through Jesus's resurrection, and the flourishing of salvation from him.
  • “No, after all…
  • The Servant is a multitude of persons

      Isaiah 53's “Servant” is a multitude (rather than one person).[Forthcoming] If true, this would be relevant because Jesus is not a multitude of persons.

  • 53:2-3 says the Servant attracts no one

      Isaiah 53:3 says “He was despised, and we did not esteem Him..” This is relevant because Jesus was a praised teacher and followed by crowds (i.e. attracting many). His so-called Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was also a crowd celebration (Matthew 21:8-11). For other examples in Matthew:

      Mt 4:25 -- Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
      Mt 8:1 --When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him....
      Mt 13:2 -- And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach
      Mt 19:2 -- and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.

      But so what if v2-3 says that?
      • First, “attracts” in v. 2 is a reference not to popularity but the physical appearance of the servant. (It reads, “Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him”).
      • The Jewish people as a whole hated him. Like his followers, Jesus was in constant danger of stoning by the Jewish people. It was so bad that they had Jesus crucified. Isaiah 53:2 is likely a reference to Jesus' state on the cross, after he was disfigured from a brutal beating (Mt 26:67; 27:26-30) and crucifixion.
      • Even the small crowds that did appear often just wanted to see miracles (Jn 6:2), and tended leave and turn on him as soon as he gave his message (Jn 6:66, see Luke 14:25-34).

  • 53:2, 10 says the Servant is stricken with illness

      Isaiah 52-53 suggests the Servant is stricken with disease.1 If this were true, it would be relevant because Jesus was not sick in this way, nor did he die of sickness.

      But so what? Even granting this, the prophecy is equating the disease with sin. Jesus is understood as having bore the disease of our sins.

      • …1 Peter 2:24 -- and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;
      • …1 Corinthians 15:3 -- Christ died for our sins
      • …Hebrews 9:28 -- so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many,

      1. v2 -- a man of pains, well acquainted with illness.;v10 -- to crush him with illness. (Note: This is the common Jewish translation; most Bibles translate it differently).

        Richard Averbeck: “On a few occasions this term [“stricken”] refers to a physical wound caused by assault rather than a stroke of disease; see, for example, Deuteronomy 17:8; 21:5; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 39:10[11]; 89:32[33]; Proverbs 6:33; and perhaps Psalm 38:11[12], but the term is used overwhelmingly in reference to skin disease.” [“Christian Interpretations of Isaiah 53” in The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 eds. Bock & Glaser (Kregal, 2012), 55.] There are arguments that it cannot be referring to illness, however, and refers to a physical wound caused by assault.[Forthcoming]

  • [v7 says the Servant doesn't cry out]

      [Brackets mean Forthcoming]

  • 53:9 says the Servant does no violence

      Isaiah 53:9 says that the servant is never violent.1 This is relevant because Jesus was violent at least once, when he expelled the merchants and money changers from the temple.

      John 2:15 -- He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (cf. Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–48)

      But no,…
      • …“He had done no violence” means Jesus was killed for other reasons.2

      1. Isaiah 53:9 -- His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
      2. Read the context of the verse above. The topic is the servant's judgment and death. In judgment, he was shamefully assigned a grave with wicked men, but at least he was partially honored by being with a rich man in death. Why did his judgment allow this partial honor? Because at least he wasn't violent! During Jesus's trial, Jesus was quintessentially seen by his judge as non-violent. This is why Pilate personally saw him as harmless and wanted him released. (cf. John 18:37.) It is also why Pilate allowed the rich man Joseph of Arimathea to bury him.

        Mk 15: 43-- “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. ... he granted the body to Joseph.”

  • v10 says the Servant would have offspring

      Isaiah 53:10 says “He will see His seed [offspring].1 This is relevant because Jesus had no biological offspring.

      But so what if Jesus had no biological offspring? Couldn't it simply be that…
      • …“seed” [Heb. zera] is metaphorical, as it often is, 1, 2 such that “see His seed” means to see his spiritual progeny grow (Acts 1:1-9)?

      Hebrews 2:13 -- [Jesus says],“Behold, I and the children whom God has given me”

      1. For example, Israel is said to be spiritual seed multiple times right there in Isaiah:

        Isaiah 57:3-4 -- you sons of a sorceress, seed of an adulterer and a prostitute.
        Isaiah 1:4 -- a seed of evildoers,
        Isaiah 14:20 -- a seed of evildoers [Meaning a community of evildoers] It can also refer to a future generation in the broadest non-biological sense (Ps 22 -- “posterity [zera] will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord”).

      2. It has been suggested that the Hebrew expression (yireh zerah’) almost or always only means one's physical descendents, but there is only one other occurrence of this expression (and it's in the Tanakh), so the sample size is far too small to argue this way.
  • The Servant in Isaiah 53 is the nation of Israel

      The righteous Servant is the nation of Israel. [Forthcoming] This is relevant because if it is the nation of Israel, then it cannot be an individual like Jesus.

      But wait, the nation of Israel…[All Forthcoming]
      • …is not “righteous”
      • …is not “blind”
      • …would not be punished for Gentiles
      • …is the recipient of the Servant's mission
      • …(“we”) is speaking of the Servant
      • …is not a single person (like The Servant)