The servant grew up before God – a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain first hand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried – our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins. He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off – and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man. Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true (Isaiah 53:1-9 The Message)
I like the way this passage from Isaiah is paraphrased in the Message Bible. It lays it all out on the table, nothing held back. For one thing, the “servant” here is described basically as ugly. He would never make it on the cover of GQ if he were around today. If he wasn’t being passed over or ignored, he was looked down on. He was mocked, he was tortured – whether physically or mentally – he was the “nobody.”
Have you even been in that situation? I have. All my life I’ve been made fun of for one thing or another. I’ve never really fit in. Most often it was for my physical aspects. I wasn’t the prettiest thing you would see walking down the street, especially in junior high. I was overweight, wore glasses, had a large gap between my two front teeth, and my hair needed some major work. Thanks to people I thought were my friends I became the laughing stock of the eighth grade. I felt like I had no one. People I had considered my friends turned their backs on me. I was no longer able to sit with my usual group at lunch because they were the ones who started it all. Others I thought were my friends refused to let me sit at their table. I was an eighth grader who found herself ostracized, forced to sit with the sixth graders at the other end of the lunch room. I know, woah, but that was a big thing at that age, and I found myself mocked even more for it. I had no place to go, no place to hide. Everywhere I went I could hear them talking about me. Not talking to me, but talking about me. This didn’t stop with the end of the school day. It was waiting for me on the bus on the way home as well. I was a big joke wherever I went.
I had no idea what I had done to deserve this. Why all of a sudden was I the target? What had I done? It didn’t make any sense, and I was so hurt.
There have been other times in my life where I have been made fun of for my clothing choices, my physical appearance, etc, but nothing as harsh as that one year. I’ve been scarred. I don’t take compliments easily. I always wonder what’s really behind them, when the one complimenting me is going to strike. This is something I’m working on.
Though I’m way past eighth grade now - with high school, college, marriage and motherhood following behind, changing perspectives – my mind still goes back to those days. Not often, but it does tend to take its journey to the past.
And then I read this passage. It’s a prophecy about Jesus. Despite what we all see in drawings of Him, Jesus was not the best looking man. On top of that He was hated and rejected, even by His own hometown. He walked around teaching about God, and about love. He never hurt a soul. But they chose to hate Him. They chose to spit on Him, and they decided that He had to die. For doing what? He was innocent. He was blameless. And yet, still they came after Him.
Why do people do that?
I guess I shouldn’t talk too much. I haven’t been the perfect example in this either. I’ve done my share of mocking, of gossiping behind other people’s backs. I’m not proud of it, and I don’t do it anymore. But when I did? I was no better than anyone else. I was no better than those who were there hurling insult upon insult at Jesus, looking for an excuse to kill Him. I was no better than them.
Isaiah doesn’t stop there though. He finishes the chapter with the “why”:
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it – life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burdens of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly – the best of everything, the highest honors – because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his shoulders the sin of many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep (Isaiah 53:10-12 The Message).
Jesus had to go through all that suffering because of us. Because God loved us so much He wanted to make a way for us to be with Him, and Jesus became the Way. He had to endure so much just to save us. There was a purpose to His life even if He didn’t deserve all the physical and emotional pain he received.
Maybe there’s a reason behind what I’ve had to endure, though it pales in comparison with Christ’s struggles. Or, maybe God is using those experiences for the good. After all, He makes all things work together for good. Though I’m scarred, I’m stronger. And I know what to watch for with my own children. I can be there for them if and when they have to endure tough times like that.
I can look back now and see how much has changed since then. By my senior year in high school I was back to being friends with some of my “so-called” friends from eighth grade - we had all changed by then, grown up as best as grade school kids could do – and I still talk to them at times to this day.
Everyone is precious to God. Remember that today whether you are the one on the receiving end of a lot of hurt, or the one who is handing out the hurt.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that I always remember that each and every one of us on this earth was created by You, and that we are all loved by You with depth unimaginable to us. Help me not to create hurt for others, and help me to forgive those who have hurt me. You sent your Son to save us, and though we beat Him down, He continued His task for us. Thank You, Lord God, for never giving up on us.