“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
I’m writing early in the day on Maundy Thursday. We are nearly through our annual observance of the season of Lent, and now Holy Week is quickly passing. What will you be focusing on during these next several days?
I read a little devotion book this year which quoted Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, the “Suffering Servant” passage, which prophesies long before Jesus’ earthly lifetime about the suffering that He would undergo for us from late on a Thursday evening to mid-afternoon on the following day, “Good Friday.”
The Lord inspired Isaiah’s words 700 years before Christ. We read His descriptions of God’s Suffering Servant now nearly 2,000 years after the events Isaiah described, yet Isaiah’s voice is as relevant for us as ever.
Isaiah tells us that Jesus’ suffering would not only be physical, but spiritual and relational: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)
Another powerful aspect of this passage is how we are featured in its thoughts!
We esteemed Jesus not.
He was wounded for our transgressions.
He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.
With His stripes, we are healed.
These ancient words not only speak of the great suffering of God’s Chosen One, but they tell us why He went through such suffering: for you.
The devotion book that I mentioned also suggested choosing a verse to focus on as we remember Jesus’ final days and hours.
Rereading Isaiah’s words, I gravitated toward Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Jesus fulfills these words in His “trial” at the hands of the Jewish high priests, Galilean King Herod, and Roman Governor Pilate. Caiaphas, the high priest, relied on multiple false witnesses to bring charges against Jesus, but Jesus remained silent (Matthew 26:62-63). Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and Jesus quietly says, “You have said so.” (Luke 23:3). Before Herod, who hopes to see Him put on a display of the miraculous, Jesus makes no reply at all (Luke 23:9).
Jesus did speak a few times during His trial, but here’s what stands out to me: Jesus didn’t speak in His own defense. Jesus didn’t try to dodge what He was about to suffer. He didn’t blame anyone else – even when the whole sinful world was to blame for the punishment He would endure! He didn’t change the subject, or call out for His own team of witnesses to come and mount a defense – even though legions of angels were at His beck and call!
We see how different Jesus is from the ones He came to save. We begin honing our defensive techniques at an early age. “She started it!” “I’m telling mom!” “He made me do it!”
Is it any different for us adults?
We defend ourselves in our marriages, even when it harms the bond that God has established between husband and wife.
We defend our workplace performance, even when we need to step it up and listen to our supervisors.
We fight tooth and nail to defend our opinions, especially online where we can’t look our “opponents” in the eye and have a real conversation.
The focus of our defensiveness is ourselves. We want to come away looking like the better spouse, the better worker, the better commentator on all things.
Jesus didn’t go the defensive route. He wasn’t focused on Himself, but on you and your everlasting salvation.
“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Isaiah’s prophecy brings Jesus’ love into focus.
Out of love, Jesus remained silent. He took the false allegations made against Him. He came to be a sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He bit His lip during the sham trial. He did this so He could finish what He started – taking your sins, your guilt, your shame, experiencing hell in your place – the abandonment of God the Father on the cross.
When Jesus spoke, it was for you. When Jesus was silent, it was for you. When Jesus suffered like a despised Servant, it was for you. And when Jesus walked out of His tomb on Sunday morning, it was also for you.
As you focus on Jesus this week, you might pick a verse from Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53 or from the accounts of Jesus’ suffering in the Gospel readings. Let this verse, with whatever detail it uses to describe Jesus, remind you that He did it all for you.