The Bruising of Christ
On Palm Sunday, the Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by the people as their long-anticipated king. Although they correctly acknowledged him to be the heir of the Davidic throne, they obviously did not want the kind of kingdom that he offered them. In fact, just a few days later they demanded that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, sentence him to death. They said, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King (Luke 23:2). Strangely, they accused him of being exactly the kind of king that they had hoped he was.
Pilate probably did not believe that Jesus was much of a political threat, but he was at least curious enough to find out why the Jews were accusing him of making himself a king. When he went inside the judgment hall, he asked Jesus whether he claimed to be the King of the Jews and what he had done that so angered his own people. Jesus responded, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence (John 18:36). His kingdom, unlike the kingdoms of the world, is grounded in truth. This puzzled Pilate, who knew very well that the world’s great minds have absolutely failed to come to any consensus as to what truth is. And yet this Jew — this carpenter from Nazareth — claimed to reign over a kingdom of truth. How insolent! How arrogant!
The world did not and does not know truth because it willingly chooses to be ignorant of God. I Cor. 1:21 says, The world by wisdom knew not God. But Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate God and therefore truth itself, used Pontius Pilate and the Jews to demonstrate the truth of his own Word, viz., that the kingdom of God is established on nothing less than the blood of God’s dear Son, by which alone he reconciled estranged sinners unto himself.
It Pleased God
The Lord will hold wicked men responsible for the deaths of Jesus Christ. Judas Iscariot, being a son of perdition, betrayed him for a mere thirty pieces of silver — the price of a useless slave. He was only able to do this only because the Pharisees and Sadducees had been trying to get rid of Jesus for some time. Once he was arrested, the hegemony urged the Jews to seek his unlawful execution, to which Herod and Pontius Pilate gave their consent. In the day of judgment, each of these men will have to answer for the greatest crime in human history.
But today’s text makes it crystal clear that the ultimate cause of our Savior’s ignominious death was something far greater. It was the outworking of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of his people. Isaiah wrote in verse 4 that he was smitten of God, in verse 6 that the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all, and in our text that it pleased the LORD to bruise him.
What we find here is, in fact, the teaching of all Scripture. As soon as Adam sinned, God declared that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Everything in the law, the prophets and the Psalms anticipated this being fulfilled. But the New Testament is even clearer. Not only do we have passages that unequivocally declare that Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (I Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8), but Peter’s sermons in the book of Acts constantly remind us that the crucifixion of Christ took place according to God’s decretive will. Acts 2:23 says that Christ was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Evil men committed the murder and will, therefore, be held responsible for violating God’s preceptive will, but they could not have done otherwise because God’s decree is inviolable. They are responsible because of God’s decree, not because they had the ability to choose something else. If God had not decreed the crucifixion, there is no way that it would ever have taken place, since nothing takes place apart from his will. Likewise, Acts 4:27 says that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews did only what God’s hand and counsel had previously determined to be done.
But the one thing that is unique in Isaiah is that he says that it was not only God’s will to bruise his Son, but it was his pleasure to do so. Although this makes it sound like God is rather sadistic, this is not the point at all. The mention of bruising in verse 10 must be understood in light of the bruising mentioned in verse 5: he was bruised for our iniquities. In other words, Christ was not bruised to satisfy some cruel desire on God’s part to inflict pain, but to satisfy the demands of God’s justice in regard to our sin. The fact that God was pleased with Christ’s bruising assures us that he accepted the satisfaction. There is no more price to pay. Nothing more needs to be done. Jesus paid every last cent, and God accepted the payment for your sin, for my sin, and for the sin of everyone who comes to him in faith and repentance.
This also demonstrates the greatness of the Father’s love for you. He gave his only begotten Son to endure the suffering and death that you deserve. If you really believe this, your entire life will show it to be so, and you will praise God for it every single day!
Our text says explicitly that God was pleased to bruise Christ. Implicit in this is the fact that Christ was also pleased to bear that bruising. The Father willed to send him to the cross, but he willed just as much to go there for you. Jesus frequently said that he came not to do his own will, but the will of the one who sent him. This does not mean that his will was at variance with the Father’s, which it would be blasphemous to suppose, but that he fully embraced the Father’s will and made it his own.
By submitting to the Father’s will and bearing the penalty of God’s law in your behalf, he demonstrated his great love for you. Now, you have a double reason to praise him every day for the greatness of your salvation!
Christ’s Bruising for Our Sin
In the first preaching of the gospel in Genesis 3:15, we read that the serpent would bruise the Messiah. However, the bruises that the serpent would inflict would be relatively minor: he would bruise only the heel of the Messiah’s foot. This is all that he could do, and it was all that he did. Three days after Jesus died from his heel-bruising, he rose again from the dead by his own power.
But Isaiah wrote something quite different. He said that God, not the serpent, would bruise the Messiah. This is not a major issue, since both are true. The Bible clearly teaches that God usually works through secondary causes to bring his will to pass. We’ve already seen, for example, that God used Judas and Pontius Pilate to carry out the unjust execution of Christ. Here we learn that God bruised his Son through the evil and murderous acts of the Prince of Darkness. Both God and the devil bruised Christ, though in vastly different ways. The devil bruised Christ with the vain hope of defeating God, but God sent his Son to the cross in order to bear the sins of his people, which delivered the deathblow to the devil and his kingdom.
But what is even more interesting is the fact that Isaiah used a different word for bruise than we have in Genesis. The word in Genesis (תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ) means to bruise, but the word in Isaiah (דַּכְּאוֹ) means to crush. The point here is that God’s hand was against his own Son even more than the devil’s. One of our cherished hymns captures the correct idea what it says, “But the deepest stroke that pierced him Was the stroke that Justice gave.” And why was this, except that God poured out the fullness of his wrath and vengeance on his Son in order to spare us from the punishment that we most justly deserve? The apostle Paul expressed the same thought in numerous places. To the Galatians he wrote, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). He wrote to the Corinthians in a similar vein: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (II Cor. 5:21).
In our text, we cannot escape the thought that Christ was bruised to satisfy for our sin. Look how often the notion of substitution appears throughout this chapter, especially in verses 4 through 6. Verse 10 says that God made his soul an offering for sin. Verse 11 adds that God would be satisfied with the travail of his soul, i.e., God the Father would accept his sacrifice. The Messiah would justify many because he shall bear their iniquities.
According to Isaiah, God not only bruised Christ but also put him to grief. The word translated grief (הֶחֱלִי) literally means to make sick. Although it can refer to a physical sickness, in the immediate context the idea is a sickness of soul, i.e., the rejection and loneliness that comes as a result of one’s sin, or in this case the imputation of our sin to Christ. Verse 3 describes the extent of Christ’s grief when it says, He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. And the first part of verse 4 makes it clear that, just as he suffered unimaginable physical violence in order to bear our sin, so he also endured an excruciating affliction of soul for us. It was not his own griefs that he bore; rather, he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.
Our catechism, in explaining the phrase “he descended into hell,” says that it was necessary for Christ to suffer “inexpressible anguish, pains and terrors … in His soul on the cross and before” in order to redeem every one of us “from the anguish and torment of hell” (Heid. 44). For Christ to redeem the whole man, he had to bear the penalty for our sin in every aspect of his human nature.
The end of verse 10 promises three things to Christ in fulfillment of his redemptive work: he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
The first promise to the Messiah is that he will see his seed. Contrary to the asininity of The Da Vinci Code, which is based on the ridiculous notion that Jesus was married and had children, the seed promised to him is not biological of all. According to verse 11, Christ, having suffered and died, will obtain the reward of his suffering, viz., the salvation of his people. His children are those for whom he died. And it is they whom he will justify.
Verse 11 is very specific about what this justification entails. Note, first, that the one who justifies is God’s righteous servant. The Messiah had to be righteous in two ways. First, he had to be absolutely righteous in himself in order to make a satisfaction for our sins, for he would have been disqualified from serving as our priest and sacrifice if he had had any sins of his own. But he also had to be perfectly righteous in order to impute his righteousness to his people. Needless to say, there would have been no point to imputing a “righteousness” that was not truly righteous. Thus, in this description of Messiah we see that he not only teaches righteousness, but actually provides it for his children.
Another thing that we see in verse 11 is that the Messiah justifies his many children by his knowledge. Here the phrase by his knowledge could refer to his own knowledge, i.e., he will justify those whom he already knows to be his children. This is rather obviously true — so true, in fact, that it really adds nothing to the discussion. Whom else would you justify? Would he justify those whom he does not know to be his children? But the phrase in question can also have another meaning. It can refer to the knowledge that his children have of him and his work, a knowledge that results in their justification. If so, then the word knowledge as used here means more than the intellectual apprehension of information. It is a synonym for faith. Thus, Isaiah, as clearly as other writers of Scripture, teaches the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
The apostle John picked up on these thoughts in the very first chapter of his gospel. Becoming a child of God requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John wrote, But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The children of God are those who receive the rebirth by the Holy Spirit. Their faith is not the product of biology or natural forces or the human will, but of God working his will in the hearts and lives of those he had already appointed to be his children, giving them faith to believe in the precious sacrifice of his one and only Son.
In the second chapter of Hebrews, the writer provided several verses emphasizing the fact that Christ had to be fully man in order to bring many sons unto glory. If he were not man, he could not be made perfect through suffering. If he were not the same nature as other men, he would not be able to die and thereby destroy the devil, who had the power of death. If he were not a biological descendents of Abraham, it would be impossible for him to be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. And in the midst of making these profound statements, the writer also highlighted the delight that Christ had in identifying with his people. We are his brethren: For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee (Heb. 2:11–12). But we are also his children. Verse 13, which seems to be a reference to Isaiah 53:10, says, And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me (Heb. 2:13).
This shows us that the promise of a seed for the Messiah was no minor thing. To the contrary, it was at the very heart of his mission. He came to conquer every man, woman and child. Some he conquers and defeats with a rod of iron. Others he gently persuades me his precious children by the invincible power of his Spirit.
The second promise given to Christ is that his days will be prolonged. If the book of Isaiah had stopped with verse 9, we might be left with the impression that, after suffering unspeakable brutality, he gave in to death, never to rise again. But that, of course, would not be correct. He would not only live again, but he would live forever. The prolonging of his days should not be considered as anything other than a prediction of his triumphant resurrection from the dead. Thus, Isaiah had the same assurance, by way of anticipation, that the apostle Paul confessed in Romans 6:9. He wrote, Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
In the third promise in verse 10, Isaiah wrote that the pleasure of the Lord will prosper through the Messiah. It pleased the Lord to bruise the Messiah, but, as we saw, it was not the bruising itself but the effects of the bruising that satisfied him. What were the effects of his bruising? The redemption of his people. That, again, is what will prosper through the Messiah. Jesus promised to build his church. He even said that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Judas, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jews, the Gentiles and even the devil himself tried to frustrate God’s purposes when they nailed Jesus to the cross. Little did they know that they were doing the very thing that would guarantee his victory.
Men think they are so clever. They believe that with their puny little might and their insatiable craving for violence that they can stop the onward march of Christ and his kingdom. They persecute the church, and yet the church grows even more. God will not be mocked! His pleasure prospers in the hand of his Son!
The Messiah’s Exaltation
The last verse of today’s text predicts the exaltation of the Messiah, which is squarely grounded in his sacrificial work. Verse 12 not only begins with the word therefore (לָכֵן), which makes this connection, but the end of the verse gives four specific reasons for his exaltation that relate to his suffering: because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Each one of the reasons given here explains how the Messiah was victorious. He poured out his soul unto death literally means that he made himself naked. When he hung on the cross, he was physically naked. That’s how the Romans crucified felons. But this is not what Isaiah meant. He said that his soul was naked. That is, he exposed his soul completely to the judgment of God in order to remove our guilt and bring us to himself. He was also numbered with the transgressors. When he was crucified, two malefactors were crucified with him, one on each side. This reveals the depth of the disgrace that was heaped upon him so that we might be well assured that he had satisfied for all our transgressions. Christ also, according to Isaiah, bore the sin of many, i.e., a large number of people. His work was not limited to just a few, whether they be Jews or some other group. But he came to make a church for himself out of every nation, family and people group on the face of the planet. And finally, the Savior also made intercession for his people, in order that his sacrifice might be effective for every single person whom the Father chose to be his child. Jesus began his intercessory work before his arrest. On the cross he cried out, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). He could intercede for others even before his death because he knew that he would fulfill the Father’s mission perfectly and would therefore be exalted in glory. Today, he continues to pray for you in heaven itself (Heb. 9:24; I John 2:1).
Because Jesus did these things, the Father gave him the spoils of war. Our text says, Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong. This is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, where God himself initiated the war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, promising that the seed of the woman would be victorious. God gave the same promised Abraham. Genesis 22:17 says, That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. The entire Old Testament anticipated the Messiah’s triumph.
The prophet Isaiah gave this prophecy to the people of his day to encourage them to hold God’s promise firm to the end. The Messiah would eventually come and bear the sin of everyone who puts his trust in him, and those who come to him in faith will be made his children and declared righteous before the judgment seat of God.
Although we live in the light of the fulfillment of this passage, it is just as important for us. When we see sin in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, at times it’s easy to wonder how forgiveness is even possible. But then we remember the words of Isaiah, who wrote, Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him. God determined what sacrifice he would accept, and he provided that sacrifice — and nothing less — in the person and work of his only begotten Son. By doing so, he established the kingdom for his Son that is not only other worldly, but is greater than anything the world can imagine. Psalm 103:19 says, The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
This, beloved, should give you boldness and courage to serve the Lord of lords and King of Kings in everything that you do. Amen.