A recent blog post on the MDI site takes issue with viewing Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of the person and work of the Messiah, particularly His vicarious sacrifice and triumphant resurrection. According to the unnamed author, since the apostles did not expect Jesus to die and rise again before the events came to pass, they did not understand Isaiah 53 in the way Christians do today. Moreover, as the author further points out, no one else prior to the crucifixion understood from this passage what Christians understand it to teach.
However, far from being an insuperable objection to the Christian interpretation, an interpretation the disciples heard from Jesus and later came to understand and believe consequent upon Jesus rising from the dead, the MDI author’s observations unknowingly confirm that the passage was completely fulfilled, not only what it says about the Messiah dying and rising again, but even what it says about the fact that the generality of people would not recognize that the crucified one was the promised Messiah who came to die for the sins of His people and rise again for their justification. Indeed, the passage begins with a rhetorical question, which points up the incredulity of Israel to the prophetic word spoken by Isaiah, and continues to strike the same cord about Israel’s spiritual blindness to the reality of what God’s Servant, the Messiah, was going to do.
WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR MESSAGE?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
THAT WE SHOULD LOOK UPON HIM,
Nor appearance THAT WE SHOULD BE ATTRACTED TO HIM.
He was DESPISED AND FORSAKEN OF MEN,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
AND LIKE ONE FROM WHOM MEN HIDE THEIR FACE
HE WAS DESPISED, AND WE DID NOT ESTEEM HIM.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
YE WE OURSELVES ESTEEMED HIM STRICKEN,
SMITTEN OF GOD, AND AFFLICTED.
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.
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.
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.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, WHO CONSIDERED
THAT HE WAS CUT OFF OUT OF THE LAND OF THE LIVING
FOR THE TRANSGRESSION OF MY PEOPLE, to whom the stroke was due?
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.
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
It might be an understatement to say this MDI author missed the obvious, but certainly we can’t say anything less than that. Interestingly enough, this shows that someone can miss something even if it is clear in itself. This is because an objective source of light is only of benefit to subjects that have eyes to see. Prior to the resurrection, the dying and rising of the Messiah was hidden from the eyes of the disciples just like it is still hidden from the eyes of Muslims. Only a supernatural work of divine grace can overcome the blindness of the natural man. Let us pray that this writer for MDI and that Muslims the world over will be recipients of this grace and that God will cause the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine in their hearts.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)