Over the years I have learned some fascinating things about religion. I was in Brazil some years ago and was sharing the message of Jesus with a well educated bank executive in his office at the bank. After sharing some basic truths from the story of Jesus and Nicodemas, I ask him if he was familiar with the story. He replied, “No, I have never read the bible. My church can excommunicate those who read the bible without the church’s supervision.” I was appalled. It never occurred to me that this kind of religious control existed. I was only thirty at the time and still learning about the reign of fear that is carried on in our world under the guise of religion.
My second experience was with a rabbi. I was at a seminar where a rabbi was lecturing on Judaism. Afterward I ask him to give me his interpretation of Isaiah 53. First he pointed out that the Old Testament was not nearly so important to Judaism as it has become to Christians. He talked about all of the other Jewish writings that needed to be studied. Then he flatly stated that he strongly discouraged his people from reading Isaiah 53 so that they would not be “confused” by its contents. I later learned that his attitude was widely held among leaders in Judaism.
I am so glad to be a part of a faith tradition that fearlessly looks at a text and allows it to speak to the heart with no absolute preconceptions as to what the end results will be. Isaiah 53 is virtually impossible to read without thinking of Jesus. If one knows the New Testament, it sounds as if it could have been tucked in the pages of the New Testament as easily as in a document that dates from 700 B.C. It was this text that the Ethiopian was reading when Philip was led to him by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist must have had this text in mind when he exulted, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” This text weaves together so much of the personal experience of Jesus that it must rank as one of the greatest prophecies of the Old Testament. Here is a list of a few truths that it underscores.
1. That the Messiah would arise in an obscure, unexpected, unusual way. “A tender root out of dry ground”
2.The messiah would not appear as one who was regal. “no form or comeliness”
3. The messiah would experience rejection. “despised and afflicted”
4. He would bear our infirmities.
5.He would be pierced and beaten.
6.His suffering would heal us.
7.He would be like a sacrificial lamb for wandering sheep.
8.He would be put to death. “Cut off from the land of the living”
9. He would die as a criminal but be buried in a rich man’s burial plot. “He made his grave with the wicked and with the rich”
10. Death would not be the end of him. “prolong His days”
11. He would be victorious.
12. He would be in a position to intercede for us.
What a wonderful prophecy!