Every since I memorized Isaiah 53 as a kid, it’s been one of my favorite passages. The language of it, especially in the King James Version, is just beautiful. (I don’t prefer the Kings James for many reasons, but there are a few passages that are just gorgeous the cadence of that translation.) The imagery is so evocative.
Even as a child phrases like “the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” “as the sheep before her sheerers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth,” and “by his stripes, we are healed,” stuck with me. So did the idea that he wasn’t attractive or conventionally charismatic. He wasn’t the one you pick out of a crowd and think, “I bet he’s the popular one.”
When I was a kid, it was mostly the emphasis on on ‘he did this us’ that hit me. He voluntarily took pain and torment that was meant for us, and because of that, we get peace. We get counted under his righteousness. Some trade.
I had to memorize this chapter for a competition, to recite in front of people. It was to be flawless, with as little hesitation as possible. I spent as much time practicing as my mom could get me to focus. I heard these words, read these words, and said these words over and over and over, and they never lost their meaning. I think this passage more than any other made Jesus a person to me. He was hurt, sad, lonely, and it was all for me. This passage felt personal. Years later, decades later, these words still move me.
You know what I hear now? Very little has changed, but instead of hanging on his silence, my mind rests on the fact that he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He knows the broken heart. He knows loss. He knows denial and rejection and betrayal. There is nothing I can feel that he does not understand, but I can only just begin to understand the depths of his experience.
He created us for communion, and that was broken. He loves us perfectly as love our partners and children imperfectly. He bears our rejection and rebellion with grace we cannot comprehend and continues to reach out for us.
I love this chapter. I always will.