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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Satisfied with His Suffering


"After he has suffered,

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." Isaiah 53:11

Isaiah, in chapter 53, as the mouthpiece of God, prophesies a servant of God coming down the line who we know to be Jesus.

The whole chapter is dense with Messianic references as we all know, but I just want to focus on verse 11 – which, in itself, is dense with expectations of our Saviour.

Isaiah prophesies the suffering of the Saviour in this verse. And the resurrection of the Saviour. And he predicts how the suffering of Jesus will give way to the satisfaction of Jesus. And he shows that the righteous servant will, by his suffering experience, justify many people. And he explains how that is achieved theologically – by bearing their iniquities.

Isaiah just heaps up the effects of the appearing of God’s special servant in this verse.

It’s as if Isaiah anticipates a question – ‘what do you mean when you say God’s promised servant will suffer – and even die? We thought he was going to conquer - this sounds odd in our ears. What manner of saviour is it, who appears and then dies?’

And so, Isaiah writes verse 11. ‘He will suffer – you should expect that. He will die. But his victory will come through death – it will come after death’.

‘After he has suffered’ Isaiah says, ‘he will see the light of life’. Death will not hold him. Death will have no grip on him. Death will not cling to him. He will see the light of life after the darkness of death and the grave.

And Isaiah’s message is that, when that happens, he will be satisfied. He will look on the work he has completed in his suffering, and he will be satisfied with it.

The spoils of victory will be rejoiced over at that moment. It’s not going to be a satisfaction that wanes over time. He will be forever well pleased with his work.

Why such satisfaction? Isaiah has an answer for that too. The suffering servant of God, Isaiah says, is ‘righteous’ – different to everyone else. His righteousness is crucial; it secures his satisfaction in his resurrection. It’s not just that he could suffer and die and rise again. It is that he could justify many people so that they might die and rise again also.

Isaiah looks ahead by God’s prophetic wisdom and sees a righteous servant who can make many righteous in God’s sight – and he sees that it’s his suffering and death that accomplishes that; and he sees that that’s why Jesus will be satisfied.

His work was to come to suffer and make people righteous. And no sooner has he risen and seen the light of life, than he knows he has accomplished all that he set out to do. Not one will be lost of those the Father has given him, because his work is so comprehensive and soeffective.

But Isaiah doesn’t want us to misunderstand. It’s not simply that Jesus translated many people into righteousness by his suffering death. It’s that he himself bore their iniquities – their sins.

The suffering is where the sins of the many are borne. ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission – no taking away – of sins’.

Theology describes the reality of God. And the reality is, not just the conferring of righteousness; and the reality is, not just the expungingof sin – the reality is both. The righteousness of Jesus for the many, andthe sin of the many for Jesus. The suffering and the death are owing to our sin. The resurrection and life are owing to his righteousness.

It’s this complete package that is the victory of the suffering servant and is the reason for his satisfaction.

He is in heaven now, at the right hand of the Father, satisfied with all that he has accomplished. Satisfied with his sin bearing. Satisfied with his righteousness giving. Satisfied with the many he has justified. Satisfied that the full quota of those he came for have been translated from death to life; following the pattern that he has pioneered at Calvary.

Isaiah encouraged his people to look forward with eyes of faith to the suffering servant and he encourages us to look back with the same eyes of faith. Jesus has not been defeated – Jesus is conqueror par excellence.

His is the victory over the grave on our behalf.

Ours in the victory in him. May God be praised!


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