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The Suffering Servant- Isaiah 52:14

Just as many were appalled at You – His appearance was so disfigured that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being – (52:14; HCSB)

This is an interesting parenthetical describing the reason why the people would be appalled at the servant redeemer. The reason the people are appalled is by his appearance. The ESV translates: “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” I do not know how to read this text in any spiritual sense. This text is prophesying that the servant redeemer will suffer such a great amount of abuse that it will result in physical damage. Some commentators suggest that this is more of a parallel to the later statement that there was no physical beauty about him that we would desire him. But the prophecy seems to be saying more because the literal phrase is: “Such was the disfigurement!” I contend that this is connected to the cross, as verse 13 describes the servant redeemer being lifted up. Mounce says of this: “Isaiah prophesies that people will be appalled at the appearance of God’s servant because he will be marred more than any man.”

I believe we can see this fulfilled in the cross because of the flogging that took place before Jesus was crucified. Flogging before crucifixion was common for criminals. Jesus was also flogged.

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”

22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. (Luke 23:13-23; NRSV)

The Luke account leaves out the flogging and presentation of Jesus before the people, which is recorded in John 19:1-6. The text clearly states that Pilate is attempting to release Jesus. The way to do this was to have Jesus flogged to appease the people. A severe flogging to invoke the pity of the people seems reasonable. A severe flogging would also explain why Jesus dies in only 6 hours. The average person remained on the cross for two to three days. There are some reports of people lasting nine days on the cross. The Isaiah prophecy may be indicating that the flogging was so severe that the body would have looked disfigured from the blood and lashing of skin that occurred.