Jesus in the Old Testament

Jesus in the Old Testament (Part 11)

Isaiah 42-53

Teaching t20611


Review series topic.  We come now to the greatest set of Old Testament prophetic passages concerning Jesus’ First Coming.  They are found in Isa. 42-53, and the New Testament contains over 100 quotations or allusions to these prophecies as fulfilled by Jesus.

Isaiah was the greatest Old Testament prophet, preaching over a 50 year period in the 700’s BC.  His book contains 14 different prophetic passages concerning the Messiah—describing him as a King (7 passages in chaps. 4-30), a Conqueror (3 passages in chaps. 55-63), and a Servant (4 passages in chaps. 42-53). 

The King and Conqueror passages focus primarily on the Messiah’s victorious conquest of God’s enemies and his glorious reign in God’s kingdom.  We normally refer to this as the Second Coming of Messiah.

The Servant passages also describe Messiah’s victory and reign—connecting him with the King/Conqueror.  But they contrast his unique greatness with the sufferings he undergoes before he reigns.  We normally refer to this as the First Coming of Messiah.

This morning, we have an ambitious project—but you are competent learners!  We will survey these four passages and see what they teach about Messiah’s ultimate kingdom.  We will pay special attention to his sufferings (which become more progressively more prominent in detail and explanation of significance)—and how Jesus alone fulfills these sufferings.


Read passage.  The Servant is clearly a future figure, predicted by God before he appears so that people may recognize him (42:8,9). 

Ultimately, he will establish justice for the oppressed people all over the world—especially the Gentiles (42:3,7).  He is the One who will finally put an end to millennia of injustice and oppression, and establish God’s righteous kingdom.

He will he be able to do this because God has uniquely chosen him for this task, and has uniquely empowered him by his Spirit to perform it (42:1).  See Jesus’ baptism, when the Father identified Jesus as his unique Son by speaking these words and having the Holy Spirit visibly descend upon him (Matt.3:16,17).

Consistent with his role as the One who establishes justice, he will be humble/modest and compassionate (42:2-3a)—the very antithesis of a fame and power-hungry leader who exploits his followers.  See Jesus’ aversion to fame and his compassion for the masses (Matt.12:15-21; 9:36). 

But he will accomplish his mission by persevering through resistance and suffering (42:3,4).  “Disheartened” and “crushed” (42:4) are from the same roots as “extinguish” and “break” (42:3)—the Servant will experience the same sufferings as the people he came to serve, but he will persevere and succeed in his task because God’s Spirit sustains him (42:1,6).  See Jesus’ outcast birth, loss of Joseph, stigma as a bastard, growing hostility and opposition by Jewish leaders, etc.  This theme of suffering grows in each of the next three passages...


Read passage.  God’s Servant will be his “secret weapon”—born at the proper time to speak God’s piercing words.  He will uniquely display God’s glory (49:1-3).  He is called “Israel” (49:3) because he will bring God’s salvation to Israel (49:5,6a).  But he will also bring God’s salvation to the islands/Gentiles (49:1,6b).  In fact, he will restore the whole earth to its original glory (49:8-13).

But his ultimate world-wide success contrasts sharply to his apparent failure because of his rejection by the nation of Israel—the very nation he came to save (49:4,7).  They will despise and abhor him, and apparently defeat his mission—until God delivers him (49:8).  See John’s summary of this irony (Jn.1:11), the masses’ unbelief in spite of his miracles (Jn.12:37), their rejection of him at his trial, and the rulers’ mocking at his execution.


Read passage.  He will be the ultimate Encourager of others because he is the ultimate Disciple who listens to and obeys God’s words (50:4,5).  See Jesus claim that his words are “spirit and life” (Jn.6:63,68), his profound encouragements to Peter (Jn.1:42; Lk.22:31,32) and his invitation to all in Matt. 11:28-30.  And he will be vindicated by God, who will reward his followers and condemn his enemies (50:10,11).

But first he will first obey God’s command to submit to torture and humiliation by his enemies (50:6).  See Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (Matt.26:36-46) and his humiliating torture during his trials (Mk.14:65; 15:15,17-20).   Yet he will endure it voluntarily because he knows that God will uphold him (50:7-9).


This fourth passage is the necessary climax of the first three passages, because here Isaiah explains the relationship between the Servant’s greatness and his sufferings.  He is not merely great and successful even though he suffers—he is great and successful because he suffers.  His voluntary suffering and death is a substitutionary payment for our sins.

Read 52:13-15.  Why will he be exalted above every other human ruler?  Why will kings and rulers bow down in silent reverence before him?  Because they will realize that through his horrible physical sufferings, he provided forgiveness for every ethnic group in the whole world.  (“Sprinkled” is the same Hebrew verb in Lev.16:14, which explains substitutionary atonement.)

Read 53:1-6.  Why did Israel dismiss him and consider him cursed by God?  Because he didn’t come from a powerful family, wasn’t physically striking, was unpopular, and suffered a lot.  They were right—he was cursed by God—but the irony is that he voluntarily underwent God’s judgment for their sins!

Read 53:7-12.  Why will God raise him from the dead, and exalt him above every other person, and give him the joy of seeing many “descendants?”  Because he will voluntarily fulfill what all the Old Testament animal sacrifices foreshadowed.  He will be the Lamb of God, God’s actual substitutionary sacrifice—“killed for our transgressions” (53:8), God will make “his life a guilt offering” (53:10).  He will “bear the iniquity” of the many (53:11).  He will be “numbered with the transgressors and bear the sin of the many” (53:12).

Do you see why this passage is called the “gospel” according to Isaiah?  It reads like a condensed version of the four New Testament Passion accounts, and the New Testament quotes or alludes to this passage 85 times.  This is why opponents of Christianity tried to explain this passage away by saying Christians forged it into Isaiah after the fact—until the Dead Sea Scrolls proved that it was written centuries before Jesus came.

Do you see why it is foolish to say that Jesus purposefully fulfilled these predictions even though he knew he wasn’t the Messiah?  Why would he want to do this, since all of the predictions he fulfilled were predictions of horrible suffering and death?

Responding to the Servant (55:1-11)

How should we respond to all of this?  God went out of his way to predict Jesus’ First Coming centuries in advance so that we could know that he is the Messiah.  But you can know this and still not benefit from this knowledge unless you properly respond to it.  That’s why God, after describing in Isa.54 the blessedness of the huge multitude who benefit, issues a detailed invitation to you and me in Isa.55...

Read 55:1-3.  God is inviting you to the “banquet” of his kingdom (cf. Isa. 25:6-9).  Because Jesus has paid the full price of your entry fee with his own death, God is inviting you to this ultimate feast as a free gift.  So don’t keep spending your life on things that will not satisfy—heed God’s invitation and experience the delight of abundant life in his kingdom that starts now and lasts forever!

Read 55:6,7.  But while you cannot and need not earn your way into God’s kingdom, you must choose to respond to his invitation by repenting—turning from your autonomous, rebellious posture and humbly submitting to God.  This is painful, because it means that you have to admit to God that you are wicked and evil—that you have lived your life in rebellion against him, that you deserve his judgment, and that your guilt is so great that Jesus had to suffer horribly and die for you.  But the pain of humbling yourself before God is worth it, because then God will objectively pardon you of your guilt and you will subjectively experience God’s mercy.  But don’t put this decision off—you won’t have this opportunity forever (it ends when you die or when Jesus returns)!  Don’t listen to your fear that you will regret this decision.  If God loves you enough to send his Son to die for you, he will certainly not hang you out to dry!

Read 55:8-11.  “This sounds too good to be true!  How could God overcome the mess I’ve made of my life?”  God’s gracious offer may sound counter-intuitive, but it is effectual to all who respond (previous context).  No matter how sinful you have been, Jesus can forgive you.  No matter how badly you have been broken by your sins, Jesus can heal you.  No matter how many horrible consequences your wrong choices have brought into your life, Jesus can redeem them.  The issue is not how badly you have messed up your life—the issue is how you will respond to God’s offer.  Will you humbly receive it, or will you reject it?  You must do one or the other!