The Servant of Jehovah and the Suffering Messiah – III

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson gives exposition on Jesus Christ's understand of and obedience to the divine plan of atonment in this third of a four-part series on the nature of atonement.

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[Prayer] Father, we thank Thee again for the ministry of the word of God. And we thank Thee for the ministry of the Lord Jesus and coming not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.

And we thank Thee that in Thy grace Thou hast included us and the many who have come to know him as Savior and as Lord. We thank Thee for the Scriptures, which are an infallible rule of faith and practice for us. And we pray again tonight as we study them, that Thou wilt enlighten us in the spirit; enable us to come to new appreciations of the sufferings and the glories of our Lord Jesus.

We commit this hour to Thee. We ask, too, Lord that if there are some here who do not know him that they come to know him through the ministry, but particularly for the Christians we pray that it may be a time of spiritual development and growth. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Message] Now our study tonight is the third in our little series within our big series and this one is called “The Servant of Jehovah and the Suffering Messiah,” a study in the nature of atonement. And if I may just, again, for the sake of some of you who were not here in the preceding times introduce this particular series with a similar introduction to the introductions in our last two studies.

I’ve been saying that atonement may be the most important word in Christian theology. That word atonement is derived from the English word “at” plus the Middle English archaic word onement. So at onement means to be in union. So atonement so far as the derivation of the English word is concerned is the work of the Lord Jesus by which man is brought into union with God. It refers to that which Jesus Christ did in his sufferings on the cross and restoring the shattered relationship between a holy God and sinful men.

We also have been saying that the Old Testament is the story of the history of redemption and, of course, of preparation for atonement. We have also been saying that there are two dominant figures in the Old Testament prophecies which our Lord applied to himself. They speak of atonement and its issues. And these two figures which the Lord Jesus applied to himself are first the servant of Jehovah and we have turned to a passage in the New Testament in order to justify that and tonight we’re going to look a little more closely at that passage in Luke chapter 22, in verse 37. And we have been saying in connection with the servant of Jehovah that these great passages of the Old Testament which our Lord saw as passages concerning himself represent that the zenith of the earthly career of the Lord Jesus is his suffering. The other figure that the Lord Jesus applies to himself, and a figure that he applies to himself more often than servant of Jehovah, is the term “Son of man”.

And when you read through the gospels, particularly the synoptic gospels, you will note over and over again that the Lord Jesus refers to himself as the Son of man. That does not mean simply that he regards himself as a man. That happens to be a prophetic figure of Daniel chapter 7, verse 13 and 14. It is a reference to a figure to whom God gives worldwide dominion. And in Daniel chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 we have that famous assize scene in which the kingdom is given by the Ancient of Days to the Son of man who comes to him.

Now the Lord Jesus appropriated that term for himself. For example, he said in Mark chapter 10, in verse 45, another passage we’ll refer to tonight, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” He appropriates to himself the title Son of man.

Now that should tell us if we are reading the Bible with comprehension and understanding, and a few of us occasionally do that, if we are reading the Bible with comprehension and understanding and we see that our Lord refers to himself as Son of man then we ought to race into the study and pull down the concordance, blow off the dust, open it up to Son of man, look up the passages in the Old Testament and the New, which refer to Son of man and see by a simple little exercise like that what Jesus Christ was saying about himself when he called himself the Son of man.

Now we have been saying, or we should say in connection with this, that the issue of the suffering of our Lord is reigning and it is this term Son of man which stresses the fact that Jesus Christ is going to reign. Together, these two terms, on the one hand the servant of Jehovah who suffers in the climactic prophesy of Isaiah 53 concerning him, and the Son of man who reigns, we have a blueprint of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. He himself is telling us by appropriating these terms to himself that he will suffer and then he will enter into his kingly glory.

Now that is what we read of in Luke chapter 24 when on the Emmaus road he taught the disciples who didn’t understand these things because they didn’t look at their concordances, they didn’t ask him what he meant by saying that he was the servant and the Son of man. And so when the cross occurred they were totally confused, thrown into such a confusion, that they left on the day of the Resurrection with reports of the empty tomb, discouraged and defeated, and made their way home to Emmaus. And were it not for the grace of the Lord Jesus who drew alongside them and gave them a one-day Bible conference such as there has never been held by anyone, they would have perished, apparently, in this attitude of doubt and disappointment and discouragement. But the Lord Jesus came alongside and he spoke to them in the kind of way that preachers ought to speak to all of us from time to time. He said,

“O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written: Ought not Messiah to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

And I am sure, and I think you would agree with me if you enter into a study of this, that at least two of the sections that our Lord expounded to them, for remember they began in the morning, they had not yet heard reports of the appearances of our Lord so it was still early in the morning. They did not reach Emmaus, which was only about eight miles away, until the evening.

Now any good freedom marcher can make fifteen miles in a day, so it’s evident that they must have stopped from time to time in total amazement and astonishment at the expositions of the Scriptures that they were hearing. They said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way,” and I’m sure that in that great Bible conference, which I would have rather heard than all of the Bible conferences that I’ve ever been involved in, including the ones in which I’ve been the speaker, I know that our Lord expounded the serving, the suffering servant of Jehovah songs, and the great prophecy of Daniel chapter 7, verses 13 and 14.

Now, this is what we’ve been saying. So we have been studying the Old Testament passages which set him forth as the servant. And if he saw himself as the servant then I think we are justified in going back and looking again at these servant songs because it’s likely that they shall reveal to us significant insights into the ministry of the Lord Jesus.

Now for those of you who have not been here we have been following this outline. We first spoke of Isaiah and the servant of Jehovah, gave just a brief outline of the prophecy of Isaiah, and concentrated ourselves upon the songs, the servant songs. And the first night we studied Isaiah chapter 42, verses 1 through 9, and Isaiah chapter 49, verses 1 through 13. We also made a few comments regarding this strange diagram, which is at the bottom of this page.

Then last time we went on and we studied, briefly, the third song, Isaiah chapter 50, verses 4 through 11, and Isaiah, the fourth song, Isaiah chapter 52, verse 13 through chapter 53, verse 12. And we did not finish that last of the servant songs and so I want to pick it up tonight at Isaiah chapter 53, and verse 7 through verse 9. We have pointed out in our studies that in Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12 that there are here five stanzas of three verses each, these strophes are of increasing length. They being rather long, but they get longer as you go along and this increasing length is as if the thought sweeps forward with fuller and more resistless volume. And I also commented upon the fact that at the beginning of each of the three verse strophes the opening clause sets the theme for the three verses. In other words, the opening clause in verse 13 of chapter 52, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently,” gives us the theme of the first strophe of those last three verses of chapter 52, and we said that that was the suffering servant, or the suffering Messiah successful.

Then we went on to the second of the strophes and in this one we entitled it the Suffering Messiah misunderstood. And again, notice the opening clause, “Who hath believed our report?” or the report that came to us. No one believed, he was misunderstood.

Then we discussed the suffering servant, or the suffering messiah substitutionary, verses 4 through 6. Notice again the opening clause gives us the theme, “Surely he hath born our griefs,” and we talked about how that section, that strophe, climaxes in this amazing statement, “And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” I did not, I do not think, my memory is getting very bad since I’m so far past middle age [Laughter], but I don’t think that I said anything about the use of the Hebrew word ifgia which is rendered in verse 6 at the end of the verse “laid on”, “And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”.

Now, that is not a mild figure that is a very violent figure. It’s as if all the dark clouds, the lightning flashes, the thunderclaps, are brought together in one great concentrated tempest of judgment that falls upon the suffering servant. So that God made him cry out, “my God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” That word ifgai rendered here “laid on him the iniquity of us all”, referring to the work of the Father with reference to the Son and laying upon him the penalty of sin. That word is found in 2 Samuel, chapter 1, in verse 15, in a very vivid occurrence. There, remember, David gets report of Saul’s death. He’s very disturbed because the young man who makes the report confesses that at Saul’s behest he put the sword through the heart of Saul. And David turns to him after he hears the report, he’s very upset over the death of Saul because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.

And even though Saul chased David all over the land of Palestine, he still did not want to see Saul die in this way. He asked the young man, “Weren’t you afraid to lay your hand upon the Lord’s anointed?” And after giving him a little sermon then he called upon one of the men, the text of 2 Samuel 1 says, “He called one of the young me to fall upon him, and he smote him and he died.” Now that’s the word “to fall upon” is the word that is used right here. It means to “fall upon” with view to “slaying”. So it’s a very violent figure and that is the figure that is used here, “And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And we’re not exaggerating when we say that this figure is so strong that we can say that at Calvary God fell upon his Son and meted out upon him the judgment that was due sinners.

Now the 7th through the 9th verses is the fourth of the strophes. And here we have the Suffering Messiah submissive. Notice again the opening clause, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” This is called in the pulpit commentary the triumph of silence. It’s a rather strange thing to read this in the Old Testament. Have you noticed reading in the histories of the Old Testament saints such as David, the prophets, that they rarely ever are silent? I started to say that they’re like the female sex, but you’re not allowed to say those things anymore, we still think them occasionally. But it’s a rather striking thing, very striking thing, that in the Old Testament the prophets when they are in trouble they usually do one or two things; they confess their sin to God or they complain over the things that are happening to them.

Now you read the Old Testament and you will discover that. They complain over and over again, asking God why are these things happening to me. And if they don’t do that then they confess their sins. So they’re either confessing or complaining, complaining and confessing. Now this is an amazing thing that the Messiah, the suffering servant here, is one who neither complains, nor does he confess any sin, “He was oppressed, he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” It is so amazing that Peter in the New Testament is greatly impressed by it and uses this as an illustration for Christians who are to react similarly under the persecution that they are called upon to face because of identification with the Lord Jesus.

So in that fourth strophe, then, we have the Suffering Messiah submissive. And we come finally to verses 10 through 12, the Suffering Messiah foreseen and sovereign. Now here we have another rather surprising thing. The premature and violent death of God’s servant made tempted men to think as they read through this account that God had finally forsaken his own because, you see, if he really is the servant of Jehovah you are allowed to ask the question, “If he’s the servant of Jehovah why does he suffer and why does he die?” God apparently does not really take care of him like he does others and he is the servant of Jehovah. So you might think that God had really forsaken his own. So the last stanza begins, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him.” Rather striking thing. He doesn’t say, “Now the Lord did not forsake him,” it’s much more to the point, much more violent than that. It “pleased the LORD to bruise him”. And again, the Hebrew word is a very strong word, something like “crush”. It pleased the Lord to crush him.

Now we must not think when we read here that it pleased the Lord. That this is representative of the Father taking a great deal of delight in what is happening to the Son. That is not what this word means. In the New Testament, for example, in Ephesians chapter 1, you read of the fact that God has worked out a great plan which has to do with all of the experiences of our lives. He works all things according to the counsel of his own will. And in that chapter you’ll also read about the good pleasure of his grace. Now there in that context that Greek term is expressive of the will of God. That is his good pleasure. The same thing is true with this verb in Isaiah chapter 53, verse 10, in the Hebrew text. The word caphets which is used here, and also the word [Hebrew indistinct] the noun which is used at the end of the verse, “And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand,” is a term that refers to the will of God. And so we are to think of the will of God when we read, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him.” It was the will of the Lord that he be bruised, that is the point of it. And some of the versions understanding this Hebrew word have translated that way. I think the Revised Standard Version translates both of these as the “will of the Lord” and that is true to the Hebrew text. So when you read here “pleased” you are not to think that God is in heaven clapping his hands when Jesus Christ is suffering on the Cross at Calvary. As a matter of fact, the whole of the Godhead enters into the sufferings of Calvary. It was the will of God and each has his part in that suffering.

Now these sufferings, as we have said over and over again in our studies this spring, these sufferings are related to men, they are related to himself in that our Lord voluntarily gave himself, and here we see again that they are related to God. And those two in these last expression of the things that come out of his suffering that we have sufferings and we have glories. Verse 12 says, “Because he has suffered as he has suffered in bearing their iniquities therefore will I divide him a portion with the great and he should divide the spoiled with the strong.” And so the last of the suffering servant songs closes on the note of the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that should follow.

Now I’d intended last time to close this last of the studies in the servant songs by asking you who is this person who haunts Isaiah chapter 53? We hear of him but he does not speak. We see the faces that he startles in chapter 52, verse 13 through verse 15, but himself we do not see. Who was he? What is his name? The Old Testament does not tell us the name of the suffering servant of Jehovah. We do not learn his name until we turn to the pages of the New Testament. There we hear Philip saying, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.” It’s in the New Testament record that we learn the name of the suffering servant of Jehovah. It is Jesus of Nazareth.

Now that brings us to Roman 2 in our outline. And we’re going now to have a little bit of theological study. Those of you that are not interested in theology it’s alright, you can go to sleep now, the lesson is over. But we’re going to talk now about something that is rather important in understanding the suffering servant of Jehovah series of songs. Now I’ve, of course, presented it to you as if there is no question about the identity of the suffering servant of Jehovah. I’m sure that if you were to travel over to Hillcrest and walk into one of the religion classes in that institution over there I’m quite sure that you might find that the professor who teaches the classes there is not so certain that this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, or Jesus of Nazareth.

I know many institutions throughout this country who have religion departments or theological institutions themselves in which when Isaiah is undertaken in study, usually it is never studied as we are studying it of course, but when it is referred to in introduction courses a great deal of time is spent in discussing the question, “Who is the suffering servant of Jehovah?” For a long time it was possible for us to say that there is little question but that it is a reference to Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian church has always thought of the servant songs and especially of Isaiah 53 as one of the clearest foreshadowing’s of the sufferings and the glories of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It has generally believed that this understanding goes back to Jesus Christ himself. The must of Mark 8:31, the Son of man must go to Jerusalem, and must die, and must be buried, and on the third day will arise from the dead. That “must” reflected so the Christian church has taught down through the centuries a mind filled with reflection on Isaiah and particularly these servant songs and Isaiah 53 the climactic one of them.

In 1948, twenty-five years ago, one of our liberal theological professors from Great Britain, well-known, said, “It is almost universally admitted that Jesus saw his way by the light that Isaiah 53 shed upon his predestined path.” Now, that cannot be said today. After Morna Hooker and her book, yes her book, Jesus and the servant, and the work of C.F.D. Moule, C.K. Barrett, and some other well-known New Testament scholars and Old Testament scholars, that cannot be said. It cannot be said that the Christian church is convinced that Isaiah 53 has to do with the suffering servant of Jehovah.

Now it’s the purpose of this section to ask why can we not be sure, and see if we can be sure in spite of what some are saying. Generally speaking four tests are required of those who say these passages have to do with Jesus the Messiah. In other words, if you believe that Isaiah 42, Isaiah 49, Isaiah 50, and Isaiah 53 have to do with the Lord Jesus Christ, then you should be able to show one of these doubters, some of them, no doubt, are honest doubters, and some, no doubt, are dishonest doubters, but you are required to answer for them four questions, four tests.

Now test number one, test number one is that Jesus Christ – you are require to show that Jesus Christ referred to the servant of Jehovah at all. In other words, there’s some who doubt that he even referred to the servant of Jehovah at all. But now just because you can show that he referred to the servant of Jehovah that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have proved that he thought of himself as the servant of Jehovah.

So they require a second test. And the second test that they ask us to show is that the propounded illusions to the suffering servant of Jehovah are intended to indicate that he was the servant. In other words, if you point to some passages which are derived from Isaiah chapter 53 and you say, “Ah, he has used a phrase from Isaiah 53,” then you are required to show them that he intended to indicated that he was that servant in the use of that little phrase because they say, “He might have just been using that as a kind of catch phrase, familiar language.” Are you beginning to feel a little inadequate in answering our liberal critics of the Scriptures? I hope you are, so you’ll go and study the Scriptures.

Now that’s not all they require. The third test is you are required to show that he referred to the distinctive mark of the servant, the suffering. It isn’t enough to show that he referred to himself as the servant; you must show that he referred to himself as the suffering servant because that’s the distinctive mark of the servant. Because, you see, if he referred to himself only as the servant without referring to the distinctive mark of the servant, the suffering, then we have questions about the atonement that he is supposed to accomplish. Suppose we can prove that he was the servant of Jehovah if we cannot also prove that he suffered under the judgment of God for sins. What’s the use of knowing that he is the suffering servant? It is useless for us to know that Jesus Christ is the instrumentality for the creation, it’s useless for us to know that the Lord Jesus is the God-man, it’s useless for us to know that he is the governor of all of the things that take place in this universe if we do not also know that he is our great high priest who is offered an offering for sin. For we can go to hell with a great deal of information about the majesty of the Son of God if he did not offer an atonement for us. You get the point?

Now the fourth test that we are required to pass, we are required to show that he saw the suffering of the suffering servant of Jehovah as vicarious suffering. Now what do I mean by vicarious? Can anyone tell me in the class? Just speak up, except for Howard Prier, he might know.

[Comment from the audience.]

[Johnson] Substitutionary suffering. Thank you doctor, that is good. Vicarious, substitutionary suffering. For you see, it isn’t enough to know that the servant suffered if we do not know that he suffered for us, for sinners. Now then, these are the four tests. Let’s see if we can pass them.

Now I don’t know whether I have this on the outline or not, the four tests. Well, I do have and now Jesus of Nazareth and the tests. In my notes I have capital B in the passing of the tests. Now we’re going to take up these tests in order and the first test is that he referred to the servant at all. And we’re going to try to see if we have in the New Testament sufficient evidence to say, “Yes he referred to the servant of Jehovah.”

Now his references to the servant are more numerous than his illusions to any other figure except the Son of man. This is what I would tell my enemies right at the beginning. He does refer to the Son of man more than he refers to the suffering servant of Jehovah. But his references, his illusions to the servant, are more numerous than his illusions to any other figure of the Old Testament except the Son of man. There are two clear illusions to the suffering servant of Jehovah and other possible illusions.

Now if you are taking some notes I’ll give you these passages. The two clear illusions to the suffering servant of Jehovah are Mark 10, verse 45, and Mark chapter 14, verse 24. The first one is that text, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” And of course, that’s what we have had here in Isaiah 53:12, “And he bore the sin of many.” Notice the expression “the sin of many”. And then in Mark chapter 14, in verse 24 in connection with the Lord’s Supper, which we have already studied, do you remember it or have you already forgotten it? In Mark chapter 14, and verse 24, remember the Lord Jesus took the cup, “And he said unto them, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many,” and again we have that expression “many”. We also have in verse 11 reference to the many, “My righteous servant shall justify many.” He bore the sin of many, and so these illusions to phrases out of Isaiah chapter 53 satisfy our test, but there is something even better than these illusions to Isaiah 53.

There is one formal citation of a passage from Isaiah 53 which our Lord Jesus applies to himself. Now I want you to turn with me to it. It’s Luke chapter 22, and verse 37. So if you meet any of these wandering Sadducees who are doubtful about references in the synoptic gospels to the suffering servant of Jehovah in our Lord’s words remember Luke chapter 22, in verse 37. We read in verse 36, “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”

By the way, the context here is so startling that it is evident that this is not a context which has been doctored by the church later on. Occasionally if you push one of these Sadducees into the corner he will say, “Oh well that’s what the text here says but what we have in our New Testament is not a true account of things that really happened but we have what the church is saying sometime later happened. And there’s a great deal of difference between what the church said and is saying happened, and what really happened.”

Now I don’t want to get into the criteria by which we distinguish parts of the New Testament which are genuine and parts that are not genuine according to liberal priest oppositions and standards, but one of them of course is that if you find the text in the midst of a context that the early church would have expunged from the record if they felt free to do things like that, then that’s clearly something that’s genuine.

Now of course when you find our Lord Jesus telling his disciples to take up a sword, well that seems to be so contrary to the other teaching of the Lord Jesus that there is no question that this is a valid reference to something that he said. The early church if they did go through the records concerning the Lord Jesus, mind you I do not believe they did at all, but on their priest oppositions if they did go through and take out the things that might be embarrassing to them that’s one thing they would take out. They wouldn’t want their great hero to be seen or read saying take up your sword and go after them with a sword. That’s so contrary to the things written about our Lord.

So in verse 37 we read, “For,” now this is connected with that, “For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me,” well what is written that is to be accomplished in him, “And he was reckoned among the transgressors:” Now I’m reading back in Isaiah chapter 53, verse 12, “And he was numbered with the transgressors.” Now that is a clear citation from Isaiah chapter 53, and verse 12. And not only is it a clear reference to Isaiah chapter 53, and verse 12, but it is introduced by one of the strongest fulfillment formulae that we have in the New Testament.

Now we have lots of formulae in the New Testament introducing citations from the Old Testament, have you noticed it as you’re reading along you’ll read something like “he says”, or “it says”, “it stands written”, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet through” so forth, “by the Lord through the prophet” so forth. “Moses saith”, “Isaiah is very bold and says”. Now these are introductory formulae, which introduce citations from the Old Testament. There is hardly a single citation out of the many from the Old Testament in the New Testament that is introduced with as strong a formula as this one. Notice, “I say unto you that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me,” and then at the end of it he says, “For the things concerning me have a fulfillment.” So both before and after he says this text refers to me.

Now the text is from Isaiah chapter 53, verse 12, the climactic verse of the final and greatest of the suffering servant of Jehovah songs. Now can there be any question that our Lord Jesus then referred to himself as the servant? Now when we add to this something that we saw last time or the time before, I’ve forgotten, I pointed out that when the Lord Jesus was baptized, remember the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove upon him, in token of the fact that he is now being empowered for his Messianic ministry, and the heavens resounded with the voice of God which our Lord heard, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” or, “This is my Son, my chosen one in whom I am well pleased.” And I pointed out that that comes from Isaiah chapter 42, the first of the suffering servant of Jehovah songs in which we read, “Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth,” in whom I am well-pleased.

Now when that voice came from heaven combining “this is my Son”, Psalm 2, the great passage about the messianic king, “This is my Son, my beloved one,” I pointed out that that is another phrase for “elect”. “Beloved” and “elect” in the Old Testament mean precisely the same thing. “Mine elect in whom I am well pleased”, he has put together, the voice from heaven has put together one of the kingly passages with one of the suffering servant of Jehovah passages in order to right at the beginning of our Lord Jesus ministry remind him that his mission is to suffer on the path to the kingdom.

So when our Lord begins his ministry with the reference from heaven that he is to fulfill the ministry of the suffering servant of Jehovah and when on the eve of his death he says that Isaiah 53, “He was numbered among the transgressors, is to be fulfilled in me,” I think that he referred to the suffering servant of Jehovah. Now, I’m a professor, I think we passed the test with flying colors. I’d mark a hundred by that answer to that particular test.

Now test number two, I may be a little partial in my grading. Test number two, that the illusions were not mere generalities. The formula in Luke chapter 22, verse 37 is convincing evidence. This is not a passing remark in which he took some familiar phrase and incorporated it into a statement, not intending for us to think about that passage at all. But he has introduced this statement with this precise, full introductory formula saying that this particular passage is fulfilled in him, very precise. Again, even in the illusions there is often a sense of purpose and necessity in the point of the illusion.

Let’s take one of the illusions, the so-called catch phrases. One of them we’ve referred to Mark 10, verse 45, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” by the way, what does minister mean? What’s the real meaning of minister?

[Comment from the audience.]

[Johnson] Serve, serve. The Son of man came not to be served, what have we been talking about? The suffering servant of Jehovah. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many,” and again, the illusion to Isaiah chapter 53 and in the term serve really covers the whole of these servant songs.

Now, did you notice how that text began? Why it said, “The Son of man came,” and he came with a specific purpose in mind. He came not to be served but he came to serve. In other words there was a note of intention in these illusions. So it is not a catchphrase in which he takes a little clause, a little phrase, and uses them not expecting us to look at the Old Testament. And in addition, if we think of the other illusion in Mark chapter 14, verse 24 at the Lord’s Supper that was a very solemn time. The Lord Jesus was instituting at the last Passover, the last genuine Passover ever observed by anyone. He was instituting the first Lord’s Supper ever observed by anyone. A very solemn occasion and a solemn occasion is not a time when you use catch phrases. You’re very careful about what you say, but not lean on this remembering what happened a week or two ago.

So when he says, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many,” and then when he took the cup in the Lord’s Supper itself and said, “This cup is the new covenant, in my blood which is shed for the remission of sins of the many,” why then he was speaking very solemnly and he was choosing his words carefully and giving us a few hints, the [indistinct] among us, a few hints that he was claiming to be the suffering servant of Jehovah. So we pass test number two.

Test number three, that he referred to the suffering. Not enough to know that he’s the servant of Jehovah; we have to show he’s the suffering servant of Jehovah. Now each of the references, each of these illusions, with one exception, Matthew chapter 3, verse 15, I don’t think I gave you that that is a possible illusion to Isaiah chapter 53. But each of the references with this one exception is in the context of suffering, either directly or indirectly. Take, “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” Well now, when you give your life a ransom for many you suffer.

At the institution of the Lord’s Supper he takes the wine which is red like blood, as a matter of fact in the Book of Genesis the wine is referred to as the “blood of grapes”, that’s why the Lord Jesus chose the wine for the Lord’s Supper. That’s why he didn’t choose Welch’s grape juice, because wine is the blood of grapes and he chose the wine so that you would think of blood that was shed. Again, the context of suffering goes on to say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Luke chapter 22, verse 37, passage we’ve looked at, he speaks that on the eve of his death, its context is also death. So I think we passed test number three. Maybe we grade ourselves only ninety-five there, it just happens to be not quite as precise a text on that point. But when we come to the next there’s no question about this one.

Test number four, that he saw his suffering as vicarious and redemptive. If it’s agreed that he accepted the role of the servant then it’s inconceivable that he could do this without accepting the vocation of suffering because that’s the vocation of the servant of Jehovah. You cannot accept his vocation if you do not accept his suffering because that’s the whole point and climax of the ministry of the servant of Jehovah, he is to suffer. So just from the standpoint of logic you could not have our Lord Jesus become the servant and not suffer, he just wouldn’t be the servant. But our Lord applies Isaiah 53, verse 12, to himself on the eve of his death, this Luke 22, verse 37. So it is evident that he, by this that, and he indicates by this, that he saw his death in the light of that chapter. He is on the eve of his death it’s just before the agony in the garden, which is just a prelude to the cross work of our Lord, and he refers to himself as the servant of Jehovah, the suffering servant of Jehovah, so it’s evident that he saw his death in the light of that chapter, Isaiah 53.

In addition, notice what he says, notice the clause that he picks out of Isaiah 53, it’s so startling that he picks this little clause out that Professor Cadbury of Harvard stumbled over this. And he said, “Of all the passages in Isaiah chapter 53 to pick out and apply to himself, this is the strangest one.” I might say, by the way, all the more reason why this is a genuine statement of our Lord, the church would never have added this. They would have picked out one of those others, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned everyone to his own ramble order to lay on him the iniquity of us all,” that’s the one they would of picked put, wouldn’t we? Wouldn’t we if we were trying to fabricate a picture of our Lord as dying vicariously for us? We’d pick out one of those real clear verses. But our Lord said, “This must be fulfilled in me, he was numbered with the transgressors.”

Now, it’s just before he dies it’s evident from that he is pretty occupied with the fact that he, the sinless one, is going to be punished as a lawbreaker, because he’s going to be numbered with the transgressors. He’s thinking of himself as being; now he has claimed over and over again that he is the sinless one, he’s said to all of those who are about him, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” He has claimed to be the sinless Son of God, and now on the eve of his death he’s preoccupied with the fact that he, the sinless one, is going to be punished with these lawbreakers. He is numbered with the transgressors. Of course, the words of the passage that immediately follow make the vicarious nature of the suffering explicit. For in Isaiah chapter 53, in the very next phrase, we read, “And he bore the sin of many.” So for the sinless one to be numbered with the transgressors in order to have punishment come upon him, which is precisely what happens in his crucifixion, it’s evident that our Lord thought of himself as the sinless one who is going to bear the judgment that transgressors bear. In other words, he saw his death as substitutionary, as vicarious.

So we conclude that these four tests that our Sadduccean friends impose upon us are passed with flying colors and that the church, which down through the centuries has believed that the Lord Jesus saw his mission and his destiny in those great passages of the suffering servant of Jehovah we conclude that their judgment, the judgment of history is a correct judgment. And our Lord did claim to be the suffering servant of Jehovah, and he did suffer vicariously for us.

Well we have five minutes and I want to deal just briefly with part of the character of the servant’s work. Now we’re going to simply survey in very simple fashion the nature of the atonement offered as witnessed in the servant songs, and first of all, it’s Christological character. It’s immediately evident in the servant songs that the nature of our Lord’s person, namely that he’s the God-man, does not shine out with the same clear light that it shines out in the earlier parts of the Book of Isaiah and specifically in the great section which begins in Isaiah chapter 7 and closes with Isaiah chapter 12, which has been called by students of the Book of Isaiah the Book of Immanuel.

In that section, in the Book of Immanuel, there are some great texts on the nature of the person of our Lord Jesus. We read in Isaiah chapter 7, in verse 14, that he should be born of a virgin. We all know that great prophecy. And his name shall be called Immanuel, “God with us”, and so we have someone born of a virgin. By the way, did you know that the Lord Jesus only one time refers to himself as being born, did you know that? He uses terms like “the Son of man came”, “I came from my Father”, only once does he ever say that he was born. You remember to whom he says that? Well he said it to a Roman, Pilate. He said, “To this end I was born,” and then lest you gain the wrong impression, you Bible students who know the kind of language he usually uses, he says, “To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world.”

Now the reason he uses “came” all the time is because he was the preexistent Son. So he comes. Now it’s true that he’s born, it’s alright to say that, but I just remind you of the fact that the Lord Jesus stressed the fact that he came. Well we have in chapter 9, verse 6 and verse 7, another great passage on the person of our Lord, “For unto us a child is born,” notice it’s the child that is born, “Unto us a son is given.” So it is the eternal Son who is given but is the child that is born in the manger in Bethlehem. But he was no newcomer, that infant in the manger. And what is his name? His name shall be called wonderful, counselor. By the way, that term “wonderful” itself is a name for deity. I don’t have time to trace that root through the Old Testament to prove it. But it’s very simple to prove it. Wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the child, the mighty God, think of that. The everlasting Father, or the Father of eternity, the Prince of Peace.

And then over in chapter 11, and verse 1, “And there came forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.” Now Jesse is the root, and here is a little choter a rod, out of the stem of Jesse, “And a branch shall grow out of his roots.” And there is stress upon the humanity of our Lord. A little rod, a little branch. But notice the 10th verse, “In that day there shall be a root of Jesse.” In other words Jesse comes from him. So right in the same context we have our Lord as a choter, metsayer, and then a sheresh as the root. And we have his humanity and his deity. The Book of Immanuel is filled with that. We do not have that in our servant songs. I’m puzzled about that. Why don’t we have these references to our Lord’s deity in these servant songs?

Well now, the other day, you know, when we were looking at chapter 49, we did have some inkling of this for we read there, “The Lord hath called me from the womb from the body of my mother, hath he made mention of my name,” and we pointed out that there’s no reference to our Lord’s Father in the Old Testament. The only reference is to his mother. And of course that is in harmony with what we know of our Lord’s nature. But then it dawned upon me that the real reason, of course, that we do not have any reference to the deity of our lord Jesus, or do not have it stressed in the servant songs is because he is presented here as a servant who is coming to do the will of his Father as the submissive servant, and so that’s why.

The men in the tape room are dying of anxiety because we’ve reached the end of one hour. So we must stop. We will pick this up for next time. I had hoped to finish this tonight but it was an illusory hope, not an elusory hope, but an illusory hope. Next time we shall finish it up and perhaps go on to something else.

[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the word of God. We thank Thee for the greatness of it…