READ : Isaiah 53:11
What would it take to satisfy you? The truth is, you and I can never really be satisfied with anything less than the light of eternal life.
Are you satisfied with your life? If not, what would it take? What if you had enough money to buy anything you wanted; would that satisfy you? Or would you also need to be important or attractive or popular as well? How about having all those things at once; would that be enough to satisfy you? You might think so. But isn’t it funny how often people who seem to have absolutely everything can end up being so unhappy? If you think that being handsome or beautiful, having a great career, being rich and famous, living in a fabulous house, having lots of expensive clothes to wear, traveling to all sorts of exciting and glamorous places – if you think that having all that at once would make you happy, just ask the latest celebrity in drug rehab if it does.
Is there anything that brings real and lasting satisfaction? Is there a kind of happiness we can have and hold and keep forever, one that will never disappoint, or fail to live up to our expectations, one that won’t disappear after a while, leaving us aching and longing for its return? There is. There is a kind of satisfaction, a happiness like that, and I would like to tell you about it.
THE SUFFERING SERVANT
One of the most amazing chapters in all of the Bible is Isaiah 53, a passage that could be called, “The Gospel According to Isaiah.” Verse by verse, line by line, phrase by phrase in that remarkable chapter, the prophet builds up a portrait of a unique individual he calls “the servant of the Lord.” Here’s how the servant is described:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with
. . . he took our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
. . . he was cut off from the land of the
for the transgression of my people he
He was assigned a grave with the
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him
and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life
a guilt offering,
He will see his offspring and prolong
his days . . .
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be
satisfied . . .
Notice all the detailed information we are given about this mysterious figure whom the prophet calls “the Lord’s servant.” Though chosen and approved by God, he will nevertheless be despised and rejected by people around him. He would have no beauty or attractiveness about him in one sense, no advantages of birth or eye-catching attributes that would draw the world’s attention and admiration. His would not be a happy or carefree life; on the contrary, he would be known as a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. That suffering would be both intensive and extensive, both deep and broad, both spiritual and physical. And finally, at the end of his life, a crisis of judgment would fall upon this servant of the Lord, leading to an unjust and untimely death. Although innocent of any wrong, he will be “cut off from the land of the living,” says the prophet, at an early age, leaving no descendants behind. And at last, after dying a shameful death in the company of criminals, this man would be buried in a rich man’s grave.
But that’s not the end of the story. The prophetic account of the Servant’s life continues. In some way that perhaps even Isaiah himself did not fully understand, there would follow a triumph for the Lord’s suffering servant after his death. Listen again carefully to the closing sentences of the prophecy:
. . . though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days. . . . After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great. . . .
Isn’t that odd? Just before, Isaiah said that the Lord’s servant was to be cut off without any children, no descendants. Now he says that the servant will see his own offspring after he has died. How can a man who died childless later see his own descendants? The answer must be that these are not literal but metaphorical offspring. The servant’s death in some way brings new people into being who owe their life to him. The place of the physical children he never had will be taken by others who somehow look back to him and specifically to his death as the thing that gave them life. “By his knowledge,” wrote Isaiah, “my righteous servant will justify many.” Countless people will become righteous themselves before God through knowing the servant. They will have their sins forgiven and their guilt taken away because of this man’s sacrifice. And the salvation of all these people will be a vindication for the Suffering Servant, a sort of satisfaction, a compensation and a reward for all that he had to endure.
But there is still more. Not only will the Lord’s servant see his spiritual descendants after his death, he himself will “prolong his days” and “see the light of life” which means he must rise again from the dead. The Servant’s ultimate satisfaction will not just be the knowledge that his death made it possible for others to live. It will be to live himself and to enjoy firsthand the results of his service and sacrifice for God. “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life, and be satisfied.”
This is what makes the Servant more than simply a martyr. A martyr is someone who dies for a cause, or perhaps for another person. “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done,” says Charles Dickens’ hero Sidney Carlton, as he sacrifices his life to save that of another. But a martyr can only take a momentary satisfaction in the nobility of his act. After that, he’s dead and that’s the end of it. But with the Lord’s servant, it’s different. He passes from life to death but then back to life again.
A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST
Now just stop here for a moment and ask yourself a simple question: Do all of these specific details match the life of anyone you can think of? Can you name a person in history who has actually experienced all these things predicted by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, that is, someone who knew mistreatment and persecution, someone who died an untimely death, someone who offered himself as a sacrifice for others, and who later then experienced a triumphant restoration to life and who now sees and knows and has fellowship with those who have also come to life through him?
If you said “Jesus Christ,” you gave the right answer. The amazing correspondence between the Old Testament prophecy and the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is a wonderful confirmation both of Jesus’ identity as the promised Servant of the Lord, and of the Bible’s inspiration as the Word of God.
The correspondence can hardly be a coincidence. It certainly did not seem so to the writers of the New Testament. This is what made the apostle Paul, for instance, insist that Christ died for our sins and rose again according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). This is why, when the evangelist Philip was asked by a man from Ethiopia whether Isaiah 53 was talking about the prophet or someone else, Philip climbed up into the man’s chariot and told him all about Jesus (Acts 8:34-35). This is what led Jesus himself to repeatedly tell his disciples that he must die, but also that he would rise again (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). Jesus didn’t predict his own death and resurrection merely because he had a premonition about what was about to happen, or because he had a bad feeling about going to Jerusalem that last time, or even because he had a special divine revelation about his own future. No, he spoke of these things because he knew of them from the scriptures. Jesus knew he was the Messiah. He knew the Old Testament, and he knew this very passage in Isaiah, and therefore, he knew what must happen to the Messiah. And so he knew what would happen to him. When he was on earth Jesus drew his own knowledge of his role and mission from the Word of God, and after his resurrection he taught his followers to do the same (Luke 24:26-27, 44-46).
Now the key element in the whole portrait is the prophecy of resurrection. This is the thing that makes Isaiah’s description unique, and this is what proves that Jesus is the one of whom the prophet was speaking. For there have been others who have died, others who have suffered, others who have given their lives in some way for their fellow men and women, others who have attracted admirers and followers. But there is only one who has done all of this – and also risen from the dead! His name is Jesus.
YOUR ULTIMATE SATISFACTION
So let’s go back for just a moment more to my original question. What would it take to satisfy you in your life? Well, what was it that satisfied Jesus? The answer is: life itself, nothing less than life and life that lasts forever. “He shall see the light of life and be satisfied.” Someone once asked the famous film maker Woody Allen how it felt to have produced a body of work through his movies that would make his name immortal, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” he replied. “I want to achieve immortality by not dying.” He certainly had a point. What good does it do to gain fame or amass money or perform great accomplishments or even experience much happiness if in the end you’re not alive to enjoy any of it? We might be able to derive a temporary satisfaction from some of these things, but not if we have to lose them or leave them all eventually. That fact turns all earthly pleasure bittersweet. It robs us of lasting joy, of permanent satisfaction.
What ultimately satisfied Jesus was something more than just having life, though, even than having eternal life. It was more than his own vindication and triumph over his enemies. The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2). That joy was his personal knowledge of every last human being whom his cross and resurrection would save. Further, his joy was found in how much God would be glorified by the salvation of all those people. Jesus found his ultimate satisfaction in the glory of God through the salvation of those who are redeemed by his own obedience. And because of his obedience, at his resurrection Jesus received the name that is above every name, so that some day at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11).
Do you know the only thing that can ultimately satisfy any of us? It isn’t getting everything we want in life, for even if we got everything on earth that we could possibly desire, we would discover that there is still something more. Nor will our ultimate satisfaction be found in going to heaven some day, although that’s certainly part of it. Because we are creatures made by God, nothing less than the glory of God – witnessing it, contributing to it, enjoying it – can finally satisfy us. We can be fulfilled perfectly only when we will see Jesus Christ crowned with glory, with all things in submission to him, and when we too join the throng and bow the knee before him, adding our voices to the mighty chorus that declares, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” When the final voice has joined that song and the last enemy has been destroyed, then the whole creation will be made new once more, and God will be all in all. And then, all those who are a part of it will see the light of life, the light of God’s glory, and we will be satisfied.
If you’re living for anything less than that, you will be terribly disappointed.