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The Servant's Unexpected Appearance

Daniel Barta

Dec 12, 2023

Sometimes surprises bring great delight. At other times, a surprise produces disappointment. In other instances, the unexpected leaves us confused, perplexed, and all together without a clue. On occasion reality happens in such an unexpected way that we miss it. We do not recognize what has happened, for in our minds the event or person or thing came in such an unexpected way that we fail to see it.

The LORD, through the prophet Isaiah, told ahead of time that the Servant would come in such an unexpected form that those who encountered Him would stand amazed and astonished, shocked and surprised.

14 As many were astonished at you [the Servant] — (Isaiah 52:14 ESV)

Those to whom the Servant came would be expecting a king. One who would act wisely and prosper. One whom the LORD would exalt to a high and lifted place of honor, glory, and power.

Their expectation of such a king was not without any merit. Of this Servant, the LORD said,

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. (Isaiah 52:13 ESV)

According to Isaiah’s previous prophecies, this Servant would establish a “government of peace” of which “there would be no end” (Is 9:7). He would be known as the “Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God” (Is 9:6). This Servant King would “strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,” and He would “kill the wicked” (Is 11:4). “The zeal of the LORD” would elevate Him as the victorious and conquering one (Is 9:7). He would “reign in righteousness” and “in justice” (Is 32:1).

Words such as these created an expectation concerning the Messiah. The people possessed an image in their minds of what this king would say and do, what He would look like and act like. But, in this last Servant Song, Isaiah reveals that the Servant will come in such an unexpected way that those who see him will be shocked and surprised. The Servant would shatter their expectations.

They expected a valiant, powerful, and triumphant king with a sword ready to cast off the ruling oppressors. Instead, the Servant before them

14 …was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind... (Isaiah 52:14 ESV)

This Servant would experience such a brutal attack that his body would be so mangled, disfigured, and scourged that those witnessing His apparent defeat would be unable to resist the impulse to look away, for their eyes would not be able to look on such nauseating sights (Is 53:2-3). After receiving such violence, He would no longer appear human. To identify this beaten, bloodied, and disfigured one as the Messiah would be unthinkable.

To everyone’s surprise the LORD would indeed do the unthinkable. He would exalt the Servant as King through the unexpected means of humiliation and suffering. The LORD would hide the glory of the Servant behind the veil of His weakness , His lack of majesty and beauty (Is 53:2), and His affliction (Is 53:7).

Amazingly, the humiliation and suffering of the Servant would not mean the defeat of the Servant King, but His victory. The LORD would not exalt Him in spite of His suffering but through it. The Servant’s glory and reign would come by and through His endurance of such affliction. The one leads to the other, they are not two separate acts but one. Victory through suffering and death. Glory through humiliation. Ascension through condescension.

‌15 so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. (Isaiah 52:15 ESV)

The net result of the Servant’s suffering would be the seeing, understanding, and believing of the nations. Even the kings will, in time, stand with their mouths shut as they behold the Servant King in His glorious victory (Is 49:7, 23).

God’s Servant, Jesus, Won by Dying.

Just as Isaiah prophesied, when the LORD’s Servant, Jesus, appeared the people did not recognize Him as the King. Instead, they mocked Him concerning this very claim. The soldiers after stripping him naked placed on him a faux robe. They set on His head a crown of thorns (Jn 19:2). Above His head they placed a placard which read, “King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19-22). Each act designed to humiliate Jesus. Each gesture meant to highlight the seemingly obvious, this one who claimed to be God’s Son, the Messiah, the promised King could not be. The one mangled, bloodied, and pinned to remnants of a tree by metal spikes could not possibly be the descendant of David whose reign on earth would have no end.

To everyone’s surprise, the man on the cross was not losing He was winning. He hung there suspended high and lifted up in the view of all not as one defeated but as one victorious. There on that cross he finished His work. The enemy did not stop Him short.

30 [Jesus] said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30 ESV)

In ironic fashion, Jesus conquered the enemy by dying at the enemy's hand. To die is why He came. By His death, he destroyed the works of the Devil. At the cross, he disarmed the rulers and authorities, the principalities and powers. At the cross He reconciled sinners to the Father and redeemed all whom the Father had given Him. At the cross, He freed the captives, those under the domain of darkness. It is through the cross that Jesus, the Servant now sits enthroned in glory, high and exalted at the right hand of God with all power, glory, and honor.

Acknowledge Jesus as the Exalted King

Not long after Jesus announced the completion of His work and exhaled His last breath, some of the soldiers saw the truth and they confessed the truth.

54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54 ESV)

The King they mocked a moment earlier became the Son they acknowledged. The truth they could not see became the fact they could not deny. Immediately upon the death of Jesus, the darkness began to recede and men began to see and understand (Is 52:15).

Do you believe the crucified Servant is indeed the Victorious King? Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Have you bowed your knee in recognition that He reigns?

Each man and woman must acknowledge His LORDship. We must bow in submission to Him. Yes, He came humbly. Yes, He died. Yes, He suffered. Yes, on the cross He looked defeated. However, do not be fooled. The cross was not His defeat but His victory. Let us then acknowledge the truth rather than deny it. Let us confess with our mouths that Jesus is LORD and let us obey with our hands in humble, glad service to the King.

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