Part 8: The Silent Servant

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered his fate? For he was cut off from the land of the living; he was struck because of my people’s rebellion. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, but he was with a rich man at his death, because he had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Isaiah 53:7-9

While the previous section indicates that the servant bore the sins of many through being pierced and crushed, it does not mention that the servant died. It’s possible that a reader could believe that the servant did not have to die if he stopped reading at verse 6. The present section makes it clear that the servant, indeed, died and was buried. Isaiah again reminds the reader that the servant’s death was not deserved but shows that it was effective. In this section, the servant is pictured as a sheep that stands “silent before her shearers” before lying silently in the grave.

When the servant was being oppressed and afflicted, he did not open his mouth. Shepherding imagery is used to show that as a sheep stands quietly before shearers, the servant stood silently before those who stripped him of his garments and dignity. A consideration of Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial shows how Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy. When Jesus was arrested, he was taken to the high priest for the first phase of his trial. While there, the mob that had arrested him mocked and beat him, blindfolded him, and told him to “prophesy” (Luke 23:64). There is no indication that he said a word in response. Later, gave short responses to questions asked by the Sanhedrin and Pilate, but stood silently in front of Herod (23:9). Jesus could have violently resisted arrest or attempted to deceive the Romans, but instead he endured the oppression and affliction. At the urging of the Jews, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. The silent lamb was being led to the slaughter.

When Jesus was hung on the cross, he was placed between two criminals. Isaiah predicted here that the sinless, suffering servant would be “assigned a grave with the wicked.” After hanging on the cross in pain for hours, Jesus died. The crucifixion, in a sense, was successful in cutting Jesus “off from the land of the living.” Later, as prophesied, Jesus was buried in a wealthy man’s tomb. Young sums up this thought by saying, “the Servant’s grave was assigned with the criminals, and after His death, with a rich man.” [1] Isaiah says that his burial was “with a rich man” because he had “done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.” The servant was killed among criminals even though he was innocent. He was vindicated immediately after his death when he was placed in a rich man’s tomb. Believers today see Jesus as the lamb who endured humiliation silently, died between rebels – because of the people’s rebellion, and was buried. We can learn to model Jesus’ example of suffering without needing to defend himself, even if it leads to death. Peter again urges believers to remain devoted to doing what is good, endure unjust suffering, and be prepared to give a gentle defense of their hope, if necessary.

[1] Young. Isaiah 53.  68

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