The Suffering Servant: Part III

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The Suffering Servant: Part II
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In this, the third article of the series on the Suffering Servant, we can feel the weight of the our Redeemer’s sacrifice for us.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” —Isaiah 53:3

“Turning their faces from Him.” President Monson testified: “Who was this ‘man of sorrows, … acquainted with grief’? ‘Who is this King of glory, this Lord of lords? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of Our Salvation. He beckons, ‘Follow me.’”[1]

Some follow the marginal note and suggest that it was Christ who hid His face from us. Urwick well argues the fallacy of such a view by quoting Isaiah 50:6b: “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Urwick reasons: “… the whole passage is describing not so much the Divine Servant’s conduct towards the people, as the people’s estimation of Him.”

Sister Carole M. Stephens shared: “Elder Richard G. Scott explained that ‘we were taught in the premortal world that our purpose in coming here is to be tested, tried, and stretched.’ That stretching comes in as many forms as there are individuals experiencing it. I’ve never had to live through divorce, the pain and insecurity that comes from abandonment, or the responsibility associated with being a single mother. I haven’t experienced the death of a child, infertility, or same-gender attraction. I haven’t had to endure abuse, chronic illness, or addiction. These have not been my stretching opportunities.

“So right now some of you are thinking, ‘Well then, Sister Stephens, you just don’t understand!’ And I answer that you may be right. I don’t completely understand your challenges. But through my personal tests and trials—the ones that have brought me to my knees—I have become well acquainted with the One who does understand, He who was ‘acquainted with grief,’ who experienced all and understands all. And in addition, I have experienced all of the mortal tests that I just mentioned through the lens of a daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend.”[2]

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “… it is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to ‘be still.’ Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to ‘be of good cheer.’

“Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe! No one’s eyes were more penetrating than His, and much of what He saw pierced His heart. Surely His ears heard every cry of distress, every sound of want and despair. To a degree far more than we will ever understand, He was ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’”[3]

“¶ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4

Whitehouse renders this verse emphatically:

“Yet our diseases ‘twas he who bore,

And our sufferings, he bore their load;

While we, we thought him plague-struck,

Smitten of God and humiliated.”

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell testified: “The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement.”[4]

Driver & Neubauer quote the Talmud: “The Messiah—what is his name? … The Rabbis … [say, The sick one], as it is said, ‘Surely he hath borne our sicknesses, etc.’ (Sanhedrin 98b).” Young explains that נָשָׂא here in essence has the meaning of “lifting up and carrying” (we shall see more on נָשָׂא when we speak of Isaiah 53:12).

Urwick explains: “The idea clearly is that one bearing as a burden the consequences of the sins of others, see Isaiah 53:11. The griefs and sorrows which He bore were our due, and belonged to us as the fruit and punishment of our sin.” Urwick also reminds us that the surely [אָכֵן] in this verse has the same type of certitude as the one we saw in Isaiah 40:7 were it is said that surely the people is grass [אָכֵן חָצִיר הָעָם]. (Remember that in Isaiah 40:7 the people were put in contrast to the Word of God, Christ.)

Elder Merrill J. Bateman has: “The prophet Abinadi further states that ‘when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed.’ Abinadi then identifies the Savior’s seed as the prophets and those who follow them. For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him.

“Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt ‘our infirmities’ ‘[bore] our griefs … carried our sorrows … [and] was bruised for our iniquities.’ The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us.”[5]

Elder Erastus Snow taught: “The various pains and sorrows to be endured in life are all necessary in their time and place; the trials as we term them, are all necessary … they are all a part of the scheme of education or training to prepare us for the future. One of the sacred writers, in speaking of Jesus, said: ‘For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15).

“And again: ‘For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him’ (John 3:34). It is measured out to you and me in the providence of the Lord; but for him there was a storehouse to draw upon, as it were, without measure. He could continue to heal the sick and raise the dead and perform great and marvelous things … he took upon himself our infirmities and bore our sickness, as had been predicted by Isaiah the prophet. He truly did heal the sick wherever he went.”[6]

Henderson, leaning on the Rabbinical Pesitkta says: “When the blessed Creator made his world, he stretched out his hand under the throne of glory, and brought out the soul of the Messiah. He then said to him: Wilt thou heal and redeem my sons after six thousand years? He replied: Yes. Then God said to him: Wilt thou bear the inflictions in order to purge their iniquity, as it is written: But it was our diseases he bore? He said to him: I will bear them joyfully.”[7]

Govett wrote: “The Evangelist Matthew quotes [this] verse in the following connection: ‘When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.’[8] From which we learn, that our blessed Lord’s curing of diseases was the fulfilment of this verse.”

Cowles underscores: “The word for ‘griefs’ means primarily, sicknesses, yet is put here for all ailments and evils.” And this makes sense, for we know that the Savior died not only for our sins, but also for our sorrows and pains: spiritual, physical and emotional.

“Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Targum (????) has, “For we are considered crushed, smitten of the Lord and afflicted.” The Rabbis consider this regarding Messiah (Seder Nezikin, Sanhedrin 98b).

Driver & Neubauer quote Yepheth Ben ‘Ali: “By the words ‘surely he hath carried our sicknesses,’ they mean that the pains and sickness which he fell into were merited by them [i.e., by Israel], but that he bore them instead … And here I think it necessary to pause for a few moments, in order to explain why God caused these sicknesses to attach themselves to the Messiah for the sake of Israel.”

Birks wrote: “We, for whom He suffered, mistook the cause of His griefs, and reckoned Him as one who lay, for His own sake, under the just displeasure of God.” Rawlinson notes: “They who saw Christ suffer, instead of understanding that he was bearing the sins of others in a mediatorial capacity, imagined that he was suffering at God’s hands for his own sins. Hence they scoffed at him and reviled him, even in his greatest agonies (Matthew 27:39–44). To one only, and him not one of God’s people, was it given to see the contrary, and to declare aloud, at the moment of the death, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man’ (Luke 23:47).”

“But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” The Lamsa Peshitta (????) has, “But he was slain for our sins, he was afflicted for our iniquities.” Driver & Neubauer quote Midrash Rabbah: “Another explanation (of Ruth 2:14):—He is speaking of the king Messiah: ‘Come hither,’ draw near to the throne; ‘and eat of the bread,’ that is, the bread of the kingdom; ‘and dip thy morsel in the vinegar,’ this refers to the chastisements, as it is said, ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities’ (Ruth 4).”

From Yalqut, Driver & Neubauer quote “The chastisements are divided into three parts: one for David and the fathers, one for our own generation, and one for [the King Messiah; and this is that which is written, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions,’ etc. (Yalqut 2:620).

Urwick has: “The לָנוּ is again emphatic, and contrasts with the הוּא which begins the verse. Nothing can be stronger than the antithesis running through this verse, both between the pronouns he, him, his, on the one hand, and our, us, on the other; and that between the wounding, bruising, chastisement, stripes, on the one hand, and the peace and healing on the other” (emphasis added).

I had always thought that the Place of the Skull, or Golgotha, was a hill—one of my favorite hymns is “There is a green hill far away” (Hymns, 194). When Linda & I traveled to Israel, we had the opportunity to visit Gethsemane as well as the Garden Tomb. Near the tomb, there is a rock formation that looks like a skull (sadly, some of this had been defaced with some construction). The skull is clearly apparent. It has been suggested that Christ was crucified by a public thoroughfare—and not elevated much from the ground—so that those who passed by could spit, mock and insult Him in other ways.

Elder James E. Talmage spoke of our Savior’s anguish on the cross: “The spikes so cruelly driven through hands and feet penetrated and crushed sensitive nerves and quivering tendons, yet inflicted no mortal wound. The welcome relief of death came through the exhaustion caused by intense and unremitting pain, through localized inflammation and congestion of organs incident to the strained and unnatural posture of the body.”[9]

Frederick C. Grant tells us: “[At Golgotha] they stripped the three victims and nailed them to their crosses.”[10] Alfred Edersheim, after explaining the anguish that the Savior would experience by having the nails driven through His hands and feet, speaks about the anguish of crucifixion: “… the crucified hang for hours, even days, in the unutterable anguish, till consciousness at last failed. It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh to as to deaden consciousness … That draught was offered to Jesus … but having tasted it, and ascertained its character and object, He would not drink it … He would meet Death  … by submitting to the full.”[11]

Cunningham Geikie speaks of the “hands and feet pierced by the nails … driven through parts where many sensitive nerves and sinews come together … Inflammation of the wounds in both hands and feet speedily set in … Intolerable thirst and ever-increasing pain resulted … The weight of the body itself, resting on the wooden pin of the upright beam … made each moment more terrible than the preceding. The numbness and stiffness of the more distant muscles brought on painful convulsions …”[12]

Frederic Farrar reminds us that: “The feet were but a little raised above the earth. The victim was in full reach of every hand that might choose to strike, in close proximity to every gesture of insult and hatred. He might hang for hours to be abused, insulted, even tortured by the ever-moving multitude who, with that desire to see what is horrible which always characterizes the coarsest hearts, had thronged to gaze upon a sight which should rather have made them weep … For indeed a death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain … all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every moment painful …”[13]

“The chastisement of our peace was upon him.” Kimhi, in Neubauer & Driver has: “Others explain שלומנו in its ordinary meaning: ‘the chastisements which ought to have come upon us for our sins while we were at peace have fallen on him.’” And with his stripes we are healed. The LXX (????) reads, “By his bruises we are healed.” Instead of stripes, the Peshitta (????) has wounds. Similarly, the Douay-Rheims (????) has bruises instead of stripes.

Govett has: “The vicarious nature of the Redeemer’s suffering is next opened to our view. The prophet teaches the atoning nature of Christ’s death. His afflictions were not for any sin of his own, but for our transgressions, because he bare the penalty of them, that by his ‘stripes we might be healed.’ Because ‘we like sheep have gone astray, the Lord hath made to light on him the iniquities of us all:’ in which words the extent of his atonements is made equal to the extent of man’s sinfulness: or as the New Testament Scriptures phrase the same truth, ‘He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.’”

Rawlinson has: “Besides the blows inflicted on him with the hand (Matthew 26:27) and with the reed (Matthew 27:30), our Lord was judicially scourged (Matthew 27:26). Such scourging would leave the ‘stripe-marks’ which are here spoken of.”

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “In my judgment the sacrament meeting is the most sacred, the most holy, of all the meetings of the Church. When I reflect upon the gathering of the Savior and his apostles on that memorable night when he introduced the sacrament, when I think of that solemn occasion, my heart is filled with wonderment and my feelings are touched. I consider that gathering one of the most solemn and wonderful since the beginning of time. There the Savior taught them of his coming sacrifice, which in their bewilderment they could not understand. He plainly told them of his death and that his blood should be shed, and this was said in the very hour of his agony for the sins of the world.

“It was a very solemn occasion; there the sacrament was instituted, and the disciples were commanded to meet together often and commemorate the death and sufferings … He was about to take upon him the responsibility of paying the debt brought upon the world through the fall, that men might be redeemed from death and from hell. He had taught the people that he was to be lifted up that he might draw all men unto him, and that all who would repent and believe in him, keeping his commandments, should not suffer for he would take upon himself their sins.

“For this purpose, we are called together once each week to partake of these emblems, witnessing that we do remember our Lord, that we are willing to take upon us his name, and that we will keep his commandments. This covenant we are called upon to renew each week, and we cannot retain the Spirit of the Lord if we do not consistently comply with this commandment. If we love the Lord, we will be present at these meetings in the spirit of worship and prayer, remembering the Lord and the covenant we are to renew each week through this sacrament as he has required it of us.”[14]

Notes

[1], Monson, President Thomas S., “The Divine Gift of Gratitude.” October 1987 General Conference.

[2] Stephens, Sister Carole M. “The Family Is of God,” April 2015 General Conference.

[3] Holland, Elder Jeffrey R., “An High Priest of Good Things to Come.” October 1999 General Conference.

[4] Maxwell, Elder Neal A. ‘Willing to Submit,’ Ensign (CR), May 1985, p.70.

[5] Bateman, Elder Merrill J., “A Pattern for All.” October 2005 General Conference.

[6] Snow, Elder Erastus, “Rest Signifies Change, Etc.” Journal of Discourses 21:25b. October 1879.

[7] See also Driver & Neubauer’s quote of P’siqtha (P’siqtha, Theologia Judaica, According to Sulsius, p. 328).

[8] See Matthew 8:16–17.

[9] Talmage, Elder James E. (1981). Jesus the Christ, p. 655.

[10] Grant, Frederick C. (1921). The Life and Times of Jesus, p. 212.

[11] Edersheim, Alfred (1886, 3rd New American Edition). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2:589–590.

[12] Geikie, Cunningham (1896, Revised Edition). The Life and Words of Christ, 2:533.

[13] Farrar, Frederic W. (1874). The Life of Christ, 2:402–403.

[14] President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:340–341.

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Gregorio Billikopf belongs to the Llanquihue Branch, Puerto Montt Stake, in the south of Chile. He is the author of Isaiah Testifies of Christ and an emeritus academic of the University of California and professor of the University of Chile; author of Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue between Individuals and other books. Gregorio’s paternal grandparents are Lithuanian Jews and German Jews and on his mother’s side of the family he is Chilean. He found Christ through reading the Book of Mormon. You may contact him through bielikov2@yahoo.cl.

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