February 8 – Isaiah 53 and the Apostles of Christ

February 8, 2021 Randy Bushey

~ by Randy Bushey
…because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).

It is impossible to know precisely how much Isaiah 53 affected the thinking and writing of the New Testament (NT) authors.

Interestingly, the passage was not primary to the understanding of Jesus’ disciples during His earthly ministry as they were repeatedly baffled by His pronouncements of future suffering and death. They objected to His dire assertions of the violence and destruction that would be visited upon Him in Jerusalem.

But that all changed after the events of Easter/Passover weekend.

The resulting evidence demonstrates a large burst of Old Testament (OT) prophetic sunlight radiating over the minds of the Jewish apostles. As NT writers thereafter, this beloved passage of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh surfaces frequently in their preaching and writing.

The Lord Jesus quoted only once from this chapter in the Gospel records when He recited verse 12: For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’. For what is written about me has its fulfillment (Luke 22:37).

But, Michael J. Wilkins, recognized NT expert and the Dean of Faculty at the Talbot School of Theology, observes “The New Testament authors both quote and allude to the wording or concepts of Isaiah 53 at least 50 times. Of those, at least twenty-nine are found in the Gospels.”

The NT writer most influenced by Isaiah 53 appears to be the Apostle Peter. Observers see echoes of the Suffering Servant in Peter’s sermons in Acts.

And his clearest connection is seen in 1 Peter chapter 2 where Isaiah 53 resonates in several verses (quotations from the NIV):

v.22 He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.
Is.53:9 though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

v.23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
Is.53:7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth… so he did not open his mouth…

v.24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Is.53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

v.25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Is.53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Takeaway: The Suffering Servant’s story reverberates from the OT Jewish prophet Isaiah and through the NT apostles in a coherent, uniform, and powerful declaration.

It is the Gospel story projected in the OT and completed in the NT.

“Isaiah 53…is a story of tragedy and triumph. It is the story of a seemingly ordinary man with extraordinary love for those who hated and abused him. His is a love that even to this day is largely unrequited and rebuffed. It is the story of the worst case of mistaken identity ever. It is a story told with many details, even though the author, Isaiah, never lived to meet the person of whom he wrote…This is no ordinary God and no ordinary servant.”*


* John S. Feinberg, Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, p.214; Darrel Bock and Mitch Glaser, Editors, Kregal Academic, 2012.