By John Hobson
During the Coronavirus many of us are experiencing being “cut off”. We are cut off from family, society and from our normal activities, and for some their work life and also from our church life. The “trial” of being cut off can make us feel as though we are in limbo – uncertain of things we thought were secure.
Of course for those who have the virus or have family members in hospital with the virus the situation is far more serious. Family members are cut off from loved ones in hospital at a time when they most want to be with them. And those in a life-threatening situation in hospital also must feel “cut off” when they probably need their family to be with them.
In this message I want to take those words in Isaiah 53 v 8 which say, in the New King James version and other versions: He was cut off from the land of the living.
Although Isaiah was writing some 700 years before Christ it is clear, in what is known as the fourth of his Servant Songs, that he is writing about the coming Messiah, the Christ. This can easily be demonstrated from Acts 8 where Philip is guided by an angel and then the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26, 29) to go up to the chariot of an important Ethiopian official (a Chancellor of the Exchequer!) who was in his chariot reading this prophecy from Isaiah. When Philip catches up with him the Ethiopian invites him into his chariot and asks Who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else. So Philip begins with the very passage of Isaiah and tells the good news about Jesus.
Before we go further, this shows the unity of the Bible and that the sending of His Son into the world was in the mind of God before it took place on earth. Let us look at this verse under three headings: The Meek King; The Suffering King and The Victorious King
1 The Meek King
Today (Palm Sunday) the Christian Church celebrates the time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. In fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9) Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem as a mighty political ruler or conquering military general on a while stallion with an army of soldiers surrounding Him; He came on animal that symbolised His meekness – on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The crowd that followed Him down the Mount of Olives and those who came out from Jerusalem to meet Him (Mk 11:9; John 12:12), also recognised that Jesus was a king (Mk 11:9–10; John 12:13).
In Isaiah’s prophecy in 52 v. 14 and 53 vv. 2–3 Isaiah fast forwards to Jesus’ time on earth and identifies with the people talking about this Jesus and saying how He had been despised and rejected by men. They had misunderstood who He really was but had now come to see how He had fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. He had grown up like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. This prophet from Nazareth came from a very unpromising background – a dry ground. There was no beauty or majesty about Him (v. 2) nothing in His appearance that we should desire him. Yet for this brief moment, the crowds were praising Him and shouting Hosanna – “save now”.
Although there were undoubtedly true followers of the Lord among the crowd, the shouts of many within a few days were to take on a different tone. This miracle worker from Nazareth, this Prophet – who truly fulfilled Moses’ description of a Prophet like unto me who should come (Deut. 18:15–22; John 6:14) – surely this One who would bring in a glorious kingdom like David’s – was soon rejected. As Samuel Crossman says in his hymn: “Sometimes they strew His way, and His sweet praises sing; resounding all the day hosannas to their king. Then ʻCrucify’ is all their breath, and for His death they thirst and cry.
- The Suffering King
By the time of that first Good Friday, the cries of the people – stirred up by chief priests (Mark 15 v 11) – was to “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15 v. 13–14).
And again Isaiah’s prophecy is accurate down to the very details of the Suffering that Jesus went through.
Again Isaiah identifies with the people and says we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (v. 4). He was mocked by the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27 v. 41–43); even both the robbers (early on in the crucifixion) joined in the mocking (Matt 27 v. 44)
He was wounded … He was bruised … He suffered chastisement …. And stripes.
And Isaiah in vv. 7–8 foretells of the unjustness of His trials beforehand when He was taken from prison and from judgment.
And then we come to verse 8: and who will declare His generation (the NIV translates is as; Yet who of his generation protested?). And then we come to the second part of v. 8 For He was cut off from the land of the living.
This Saviour, who while He was living among us was loving to all, and looked with compassion on the multitude as sheep without a shepherd, was being hurried out of the land of the living. He was to be cut off from His friends, at least one – the beloved disciple, John – was at the foot of the cross. As was His earthly mother, Mary (see John 19 vv. 25–27).
But more than being cut off from those He had walked among on earth, He was cut off from His heavenly Father.
The physical suffering was agonising but it was the spiritual suffering for those three hours of darkness – from noon to 3 pm – when He was “cut off”, separated, from His Father which was far worse. For the first time in that life of 33 years He experienced being separated from His Father – an isolation which He could only express in the words of Psalm 22 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”. This is another portion of Scripture that speaks in detail of the suffering of Christ even though written many hundreds of years before.
But why was He cut off? It was for us. It was for my sins, your sins; my rebellion, your rebellion. Isaiah refers to this in different ways in verses 4, 5, 6, and 8c. He was the innocent lamb led to the slaughter, yet He willingly offered Himself. He could have called 10,000 angels to His aid, but instead He opened not His mouth. He was perfectly innocent, as Isaiah says He had done no violence; there was no deceit in His mouth (v. 9). As Peter puts it: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. (1 Pet. 3:18).
Look how Isaiah describes us – and it is all inclusive – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. We may think that our way is all right – it is respectable; we have lived a moral life; that we are good enough for God; or that we have been very religious – but God knows our hearts. He knows that there is no-one who is righteous, not even one. As the children’s hymn puts it: There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.
It maybe, on the other hand, that you are very conscious that you have not come up to God’s standards. There was one man who was crucified alongside Jesus who came to realise his sinful condition.
He, with his fellow criminal, had mocked Jesus to begin with. But as He watched and heard Jesus, utter words like “Father, forgive for them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23 v. 34), he came to see the state of his own heart. He even rebuked the other criminal (Luke 23 v. 40).
As that criminal hung there all he could do was to offer a simple prayer to the Lord Jesus for His mercy. Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. And his prayer was answered.
He never had a chance to read His Bible, or meet with other Christians, or be baptised – things which we are sure he would have done if he had lived – but the Lord Jesus accepted him. He recognised that his sorrow for his past life was real, and his repentance was real and said to him: Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
In all the sadness that surrounds us at the present time, there is hope in that cross where Jesus died. Whoever you are reading this – there is a way back to God – a way to have a relationship with Him. You will no longer need to be cut off from Him, and instead of being lost and separated from Him for ever in hell, can know the joy of living in God’s presence for ever where there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16 v 11).
An old children’s chorus puts it like this:
There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin;
There’s a door that is open and you may go in:
At Calvary’s cross is where you begin,
When you come as a sinner to Jesus.
That dying thief also understood something else too. He knew that Jesus would live again for he understood that He would come into His kingdom.
That leads us to the final section of Isaiah’s Servant Song in Isaiah 53 vv 10–12, so let us consider:
- The Victorious King
From the very beginning of this part of Isaiah (from 52 v. 11) where the NIV translates it as: See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. And then in 52 v 15 it says he will sprinkle many nations, Isaiah looks to the success of His mission in bringing many sons to glory.
This looks beyond His humiliation and the suffering of the cross to His resurrection and His return to heaven where He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 1 v 3).
In Isaiah 53 v. 11, God is satisfied with the work that Jesus has done for us on the cross. As John wrote in his Gospel almost Jesus’ final words on the cross “It is finished” – (John 19 v. 20). I’m told that this is one word in the Greek (telelesthai) and it was a word often written across a bill to show that it had been paid in full.
And the resurrection on the third day shows us that God has accepted Christ’s sacrifice for us – He has paid the debt in full.
In v. 11 we read that By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many. Those who have indeed come to Calvary’s cross and trusting in that finished work, will be justified.
The filthy rags of all our “righteousnesses” have been replaced with the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness and God looks upon us and sees the righteousness of His Son.
This does not mean that we will never sin again, and we need to come to Him for daily cleansing (1 John 1 vv 8–9), but it does mean we are accounted righteous in His sight.
And the final verse of Isaiah 53 reminds us that we have a Man in heaven who ever lives to make intercession for us. This is echoed in Hebrews 7 v 25: He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
So wherever you are this day; in whatever condition you find yourself – He is alive now, longing for you to return to Him or come to Him for the first time.