"He Hath Borne Our Griefs" (Isaiah 53:4-6)
The heart of the matter is reached in this section, as the
realization comes to the onlookers that the sufferings of this man were for
their sakes! Of the twelve assertions that Christ suffered for others, no less
than seven are found in this one group of three verses. The middle verse of this
small section, which is in turn the middle verse of the whole section, and the
middle verse of the whole second half of Isaiah's prophecy, has four such
assertions all by itself!
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him
stricken, smitten of God, and
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" --
The "surely", or "verily", is for emphasis. "Borne" is the word "nasa" ("lifted
up"), the same word translated "extolled" in Isa 52:13. The word recalls John
"And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a
"Griefs" and "sorrows" are repeated from v 3. The spectators
realize with shocked amazement that all the varied griefs of this man's life
were endured lovingly, on behalf of others, even themselves!
"Yet we did esteem him stricken" -- The word signifies "to
touch" or "to smite". It is translated "plague" over fifty times in Lev 13 and
14, in relation to leprosy. This loathsome disease required special cleansing
and purification procedures. The sufferer was forced to dwell outside of the
camp, and was pronounced unclean and avoided by all people. This, then, was the
Jews' estimation of their Messiah; an unclean man to be shunned, lest they also
become "defiled" by contact with him.
"Afflicted" -- A state of deep and lasting humiliation; the
same word as in Exo 1:11,12.
* * *
This is another impressive irony. The one who was treated as a
leper by his "pure" countrymen, was all the while bearing the abuses they
themselves deserved because of their sins. And he was approved by God as a
righteous and faithful servant! They had stood at the foot of the cross and
"He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Mat 27:41,42; Mark
And it was true! He could not possibly have spared himself
from the tortures of the cross if he hoped to fulfill the Father's purpose in
the salvation of his brethren. How significant in the light of this figure of
leprosy in Isa 53 is the healing of lepers by our Lord. His miracles are
parables of the healing of sin, of which leprosy is a type.
* * *
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are
"But he was wounded for our transgressions" -- "Chalel"
signifies "pierced" (NEB), recalling Psa 22:16:
"They pierced my hands and my feet."
It was not just Christ's death that made atonement for us, but
also his dying! His blood was shed -- by the scourge, the thorns, and the nails
-- while he was still alive. He was, as our example, a "living sacrifice" (Rom
"He was bruised for our iniquities" -- Literally, "crushed".
Though not the identical word, it certainly calls attention to Gen 3:15, the
first great promise of salvation:
"I will put enmity between you (ie, the serpent) and the woman, and between your
seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel"
The bruising, or crushing, of the Messiah also shows his
sacrifice to be the antitype of so many of the provisions of the law of Moses;
the lampstand of pure beaten gold (Exo 25:31); the beaten oil of the daily
sacrifice (Exo 29:40); the two cherubim of gold beaten out of one piece (Exo
37:7); the grain of the firstfruits beaten out (Lev 2:1,14); pure olive oil
beaten for the light (Lev 24:2); etc. The beating or crushing in every case
speaks of careful preparation and affliction, as necessary to fit the finished
product for service to God. So it was with Christ, and so it must be with
"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts
"The chastisement of our peace was upon him" -- "Upon him was
the chastisement that made us whole" (RSV). This "peace" of reconciliation and
renewed fellowship with God comes through our cleansing" -- healing or being
made whole -- of the "leprosy" of sin that afflicts us. This we may have only
through Christ. Of this Paul speaks;
"That I may know him... and the fellowship of his sufferings" (Phi
"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle
wall of partition... that he might reconcile both (ie, Jews and Gentiles) unto
God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (Gen 3:15 again!):
and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were
nigh" (Eph 2:14-18).
"And with his stripes we are healed" -- "Scourgings" (NEB).
The "healing" reminds us of the experiences of Israel in the wilderness, when
they cane to the bitter waters of Mara (Exo 15). The Lord showed Moses a tree
and commanded him to cast it into the waters (v 25) He did so, and the waters
were healed or made sweet. Thus by this miracle God declared His name to be
"Yahweh Ropheka" -- "I will heal thee" (v 26)!
This healing was only the pattern of that greater "healing" to
come in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. During his ministry, every
act of healing served to identify him with his Father's character and
"They that be whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to
call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke
The only logical conclusion of such an undertaking was the
cross. And Peter, reflecting in later years upon that dread but wonderful day,
could write that Christ "bare our sins in his own body on the tree... by whose
stripes ye were healed." (1Pe 2:24). By his reference to the tree he was linking
together the miracle at the waters of Mara, the prophecy of Isaiah, and the
cross of Calvary.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us
"All we like sheep have gone astray" -- The prophet Zechariah
"Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered"
To this Jesus alluded when he told the disciples on the night
of his arrest:
"All ye shall be offended because of me this night" (Mat
And so it was that they all forsook him and fled (v 56).
Peter, recalling those same events, quoted Isa 53:6:
"For ye were as sheep going astray"
but added the final thought that, after the
"(Ye) are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1Pe
Let us, as we view the cross, remember that even the apostles,
who accompanied Jesus for more than three years, were weak and fearful as sheep
in the time of their testing. Let us, therefore, not be unduly cast down by our
failures; but let us return to our Shepherd to be healed:
"I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant; for I do not forget Thy
commandments" (Psa 119:176).
"And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" -- As
Peter wrote, he "bare our sins" (1Pe 2:24). This is an evident allusion to the
ritual of the scapegoat, who bore or carried away the iniquities of Israel to "a
land not inhabited" (Lev 16:21,22) -- that is, "outside the camp" (Heb 13:13).
This was certainly fulfilled in Christ's bearing of our sin-nature, as Paul
"For he made him to be sin for us, who (personally) knew no sin" (2Co
Possessing Adam's nature, the same nature as ourselves, he
carried it outside the gate of Jerusalem where he was nailed to the cross and
lifted up; thus symbolically was destroyed that which has the power of death --
the "devil" (Heb 2:1,14,15), or "sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3).
But let us not simply lapse into the "technical" aspects of
Christ's sacrifice. It is true that Christ did not bear the guilt of our sins,
and that he did not die in our steads. But if we stop at that, do we not still
miss the point? Call it what you will, hedge it about with exceptions and
careful definitions, when all is said and done, HE DID DIE -- and that is the
important issue! Let us be careful here; let us examine ourselves. In our zeal
for "truth", are we so caught up in the theory that the fact is almost ignored?
Do we suppose that when we have explained, in man's imperfect language, why
Christ died -- that our conception of the cross is complete? No; this man died
because he loved to the uttermost his brethren. Here is the lesson. And here,
also, the example and exhortation for us.
* * *
New Testament Quotations
1. Verse 4 -- Mat 8:16,17: To those who have been accustomed
to read Isaiah 53 as related only to the last day or so of our Saviour's mortal
life, this quotation comes as quite a shock:
"When the evening was come, they brought unto him many
demoniacs... and he healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which
was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, 'He took our infirmities and bore our
Surely these verses are telling us that Christ's sympathy for
poor suffering humanity was an intensely personal feeling. We can imagine no
stronger words to convey the closeness, the unity, the fellowship of suffering.
Here is not theoretical transferal of guilt or sin-effect; there is no ritual,
no ceremony about it -- it is real! This man was one of us. He stood before the
tomb of a friend and shed real tears. Our weaknesses were his, and our
sufferings, and our sorrows. Our Lord's conquest of sin was not lightly
achieved. It was by bitter hardship and sore travail, in a character of the
tenderest sensibilities, that reception was achieved. And the sane was true when
Jesus healed the sick, working those lesser "salvations" by which the greater
was typified. At every step along the road that led to the cross his identity
with burdened, mortal humanity was absolute.
2. Verse 5 -- Heb 12:11: "No chastening for the present
seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the
peaceable fruit of righteousness." Certainly this recalls "the chastisement of
our peace". Paul has carried forward the lesson of Isaiah's Suffering Servant to
apply to us all. We must follow on after our master and experience in our lives
"the fellowship of his sufferings" (Phi 3:10). because these things will, by
God's grace, make for our "peace".
3. Verses 5-7 -- 1Pe 2:22-25: Peter gives a long series of
allusions to this prophecy, most of which have already been considered
4. Verses 5-7 -- John 1:29: When John the Baptist acclaimed
Jesus with the words, "Behold the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the
world", he was surely expressing a Biblical idea -- but which one? Possibly the
Lamb of the Passover, or perhaps the lamb of the daily burnt-offering. But, in
light of Isaiah's great stress upon the fact that the Servant of Yahweh was
suffering, lamb-like, for the sins of others, it seems most likely that John had
this passage uppermost in mind.