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The Suffering Servant- Isaiah 53:4

Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. (53:4; NIV, NRSV, HCSB mixture)

I used a mixture of three translations to get the literally meaning of the prophecy. Most translations read that the servant “bore our griefs” (NASB). The word “bore” means “to lift, to carry.” The reason this is important is because Calvinism has used the word “bore” to mean that Jesus took the sins into his body. That is, sin was on Jesus and Jesus was therefore punished by God in the cross. But that is not what is being taught in this verse. The servant will lift up our infirmities and carry our pains. The reason this is important is because of the way the New Testament handles this prophecy. If Calvinism is correct, we would expect this verse to be quoted when Jesus was on the cross, suffering for the sins of the people. However, that was not the fulfillment of this prophecy. Matthew quotes Isaiah in Matthew 8:16-17.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (NIV)

Matthew clearly shows that this is not prophesying about the cross, but about the life of the servant. The fulfillment was in the miracles the servant performed in taking away sicknesses, diseases, and demon possession from the people. Isaiah is not saying that the servant will bear anything in his body. Rather, the servant will carry away the infirmities and diseases of the people. Notice the point: even though the servant will take away the illnesses and diseases of the people, the people will still consider the servant stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. Now, carefully read the text. Does Isaiah say that God was striking the servant down? No, yet how often it is taught that God had to strike down the Son. Isaiah says that it was the people who considered the servant struck down by God, not that he was actually struck down. The sufferings of the servant were not his own fault, but the people did not recognize this.

The people believed that Jesus was stricken and struck down by God based upon the declaration of Deuteronomy: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; ESV). This is the argument that the apostle Paul makes in Galatians 3 that Jesus became a curse for us because of the manner in which he died. The people perceived Jesus as separated and forsaken by God. But Isaiah nor the rest of the scriptures teach that Jesus was struck down by God. Rather than seeing the servant as the arm of the Lord, we saw him as stricken by God. What a contrast!