Communion Meditation for Holy Week: Isaiah 53:10-12
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The conclusion of the Servant’s song here in Isaiah begins with a statement that should jar any of us who are parents. Isaiah begins the last triplet of the song with the statement, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him”. Any of us as parents surely have a difficult time imagining this. It was the will of the Lord to crush him? We read this and we are about as confused as Abraham as he is asked to take up his one, only and beloved son and sacrifice him on the mountain. It is an unfathomable action for a parent. And yet Christ relationship to God the Father goes much deeper than the parent/child metaphor can communicate. The three members of the Trinity have eternally been in perfect fellowship and communion. A fellowship so deep and abiding, the best of our human relationships can simply stutter in their description of the Trinity’s oneness. But Isaiah says, now, it is the delight of the Lord to crush the servant. To put him into grief. To punish him. Why? Why would the Trinity do this? Because the will of God always has something bigger in mind than we do. By punishing the servant, an offering will be made for guilt.
And yet how can this be? The servant is righteous, perfectly righteous. He has fulfilled all that Adam should have in the Garden, he has rehearsed the story of Israel, into egypt and back, through the waters of the Jordan and on to Zion, even going through Jericho on the way, and yet how can this servant be considered guilty, he is the perfect lamb? Verse 11 and 12 both point out that he is bearing the inequities, the sins of others. He is doing this so that they can be counted righteous. Any illusions we have about there being a difference between the old and new testaments are blown away by the prophet, who says that the servant’s sacrifice will be the basis by which the many, the church of all time, are reckoned as righteous.
This is why the Trinity is willing to take on this radical separation, this punishment. It was for the joy set before Christ that he endured the Cross.
Isaiah’s final stanza here includes one last thing worth note. He speaks of something very familiar to the people of Israel who would have first heard his voice. He speaks of offspring or seed. The people of Israel knew a little bit about this. Their land holdings were based on their position as the seed of one tribe or another. Their identity was wrapped into this sort of thing. And yet, Jesus the second Adam, the great seed of Abraham, the son of Man, did not have any children. Here Isaiah points us to something big, bigger than we can imagine. He shows us that the suffering servant’s death has bought him a seed, not of flesh but of faith. This death is the means by which a great spoil is divided among the many. The Lord divides the spoil the Servant is due among those who he purchased. It is as if the servant, Christ, has broken open the piñata and set his seed loose to pick up the candy for the age to come.
That is the picture that the Lord sees. Not simply the crushing of the servant but the spoils of his victory. The seed, a people that is to come. A seed bound together, not by their righteousness, but by the righteousness bought for them with the flesh and blood of a perfect lamb; the lamb which takes away the sins of the many. It is on this flesh and blood that we prepare to feast on now.