Holy Week: Thursday Isaiah 52:13-53:5
Makoto Fujimura, is a Christian artist who uses a Japanese style of painting called Nihonga. Semi-precious stone such as lapis lazuli is crushed into mineral pigments. A pigment absorbs and reflects transmitted light, but without the breaking and crushing of the stone, there would not be the splendor of the colors shimmering in refracted light. This piece, “Sacrificial Grace” is a visual testament to the determination of Christ to be crushed and broken to bring us peace and healing.
Isaiah 52. 13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely (accomplish his purpose); he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he “startle” (sprinkle) many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.
Isaiah 53 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
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.
Behold My Servant. With the same opening words as the first song (42:1), Isaiah calls us to behold, to gaze, to contemplate the one called “The Servant.” (52:13) We have been challenged to open our eyes and ears to God’s revelation of the Servant’s mission to redeem us from sin. Now then, we most certainly must pay attention with all our senses.
Exalted. The Servant has acted wisely, or accomplished his purpose, as Jesus says to the Father: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) As a result the Servant will be exalted, lifted high for all to behold God’s glory. The song in Philippians 2 so beautifully describes the Exaltation of Jesus:
Christ Jesus emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.
The Arm of the Lord. “The arm of the Lord” (53:1) is a depiction of the same Servant we have seen in 42:1-9, 49:1-6, and 50:4-9. This final poem focuses on the great contrast between the Servant’s exaltation and his humiliation and suffering. The “startling” and unexpected truth that the power of God’s arm is not a mighty overwhelming that crushes the enemy, but instead the suffering, humiliation and crushing of the Servant who takes on himself the sin of the world as the sacrificial Lamb of God. As we saw in 50:4-9, the Servant suffers undeservedly because of human sin, but as the delivering arm of the Lord, he will restore us to fellowship with God.
Crushed. A vivid description of the Servant’s crushing sacrifice being all for us is seen in the contrast between him and us in verses 4-5: He suffered, but it was we who sinned. Our grief…he carried. Our pain…he bore. He was pierced…for our rebellion. He was crushed…for our iniquity. Our punishment..was on him. His welts…healed us. The Message Bible clearly states the startling truth:
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Reflection. This Servant Song is one which you must sit alone with, and pray for the Spirit to bring to your attention the truth and healing you need.
Practice. Visio Divina. “Sacred seeing” is an ancient form of Christian prayer in which we allow our hearts and imaginations to enter into an image such as a Fujimura’s “Sacrificial Grace.” Try to visualize the crushing of the precious stone that becomes the pigment which light transforms into beauty. Sit in silence with the painting and think through what emotions are stirred up. Offer any prayers or praise that come to you. Sit in silence
Commentary Source: Oswalt, John N. The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.