Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.(Isaiah 53:1-3)
It is the climax of human history, the apocalypse, the very end of the world. The Jewish people are surrounded on all sides by armies who have amassed themselves together to wipe them out! Israel’s enemies have never been so seemingly close to achieving their goal .
Suddenly something happens which is totally unexpected, Israel’s God reveals himself . The embattled nation dimly recognizes Him as the one whom they had once shunned and pierced. It is now evident that the Messiah/Saviour who has come to them in their most desperate hour, bears the marks of crucifixion!
The nation of Israel reels. It was Him all along? The Nazarene? Jesus ? Everything they thought they knew of their own history, scripture, and law has been upended. In the darkest hour, the 2500 year old prophecy of Zechariah is fulfilled, “They shall look upon ME whom they have pierced and they shall mourn as for an only Son…”.
In the fourth Servant Song, Isaiah predicts the heartfelt confession that the prodigal son nation of Israel, long estranged from her God, will make at that point in time ;
…he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.(Isaiah 53:1-3)
He is despised and rejected of men;…When men don’t ignore Him, they usually scorn or hate him, rejecting Him virulently. To this day, they often refuse to give any credence to Him, and loathe the implications of his life and ministry. Somehow they sense instinctively that this man reveals the very secrets of their own hearts, therefore they hate and shun him.
There is something about Him that brings out in men either an instinctive abhorrence , or an attraction, as it is written, “He came unto His own and His own received him not… but as many as received him…”. He does not and cannot ‘fit in’ with the Age, He is always separate, isolated, the outsider.
…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…This is a man completely familiar with the human condition. He knows by experience what sorrow and grief , weakness and limitation are all about. The Messiah entered into our human dilemma, experiencing death in all of its toxic forms.
…and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not…What is it about him that causes so many to turn away? To be tempted to be ashamed to even so much as associate with Him? Why does he have to promise reward for those who will confess him before their own generation?
We confess that there was a time for all of us, (the believing community of the Servant), that we couldn’t look at Him, we turned away from him in shame and horror. Was it that our own age so hated Him, and we didn’t want to share in His reproach ?
Is it a sad, misguided allegiance with the rest of the world that “despises and rejects” Him whom God has sent? Could it be that we know deeply that His suffering is a testimony to our own sinfulness, weakness, and rebellion ? Does He not evoke the deepest wells of God hatred in the hearts of Adam’s proud sons and daughters?
So we have all turned away our faces from Him at one time or anther. We have laughed at him, taking our own seat with the rest of the scorners who cynically mock him in our own age. Our estimation of Him has been faulty, we didn’t see anything special in Him, nothing to regard or be in awe of.
But all that tells us is that our own faculties of judgment are so utterly corrupt, and that sin has made us all hopelessly bankrupt, morally and spiritually, unable to see truth, Beauty and genuine Holiness and goodness, when it is presented to us. He, the Servant, is rejected of men, but precious to God.
The Jewish nation has had many figures in her history, many noble and more than a few ignoble. But far and away the one figure in Jewish history who has invoked the most intense despite, and loathing among them , has been Jesus of Nazareth.
I quote the Hebrew Christian author of the last century, David Baron;
“No person in the history of the Jews has provoked such deep-seated abhorrence, as He who came only to bless them and on the cross prayed for them,”Father forgive them, they know not what they have done…”…Their hatred of Him was intense and mysterious…All through the centuries no name has provoked such intense abhorrence among the Jews as Jesus…I have known personally most amiable, and as men, lovable characters among the Jews; but immediately the name “Jesus” was mentioned, a change came over their countenances, and they would fall into a passion of anger….How often it has been my lot to witness some of my people almost mad with rage – clenching their fists, gnashing their teeth, and spitting on the ground at the very mention of that name which to the believer is “As an ointment poured fourth”….Israel’s atitude to our Lord Jesus may be gathered also from their literature. In the filthy legends about him in the Talmud and more modern productions, the very names by which he is called are blasphemous. The precious name Yeshua has been changed to Yeshu,(an acronym meaning ‘May his name and memory be blotted out’)…He is often styled “the Transgressor” and another frequently used term, “Tolui( “the hanged One”) which is equivalent to “the accursed one”.( Baron, The Servant of Jehovah)
But the Jewish people are a microcosm of the entire Human race, their unbelief and rejection of their own Messiah is a type of all of our own bitterness towards God. How did we come to love Jesus, whom we once would have crucified? He revealed himself to us in grace and Mercy, as He will soon to his own original chosen people! Hallelujah!