1. The Tenderness of the Servant (Isa. 42:1–4)
Jesus was a kindhearted servant. No slave has ever served his maser with a greater loyalty than Jesus gave to His Father. That bond of faithfulness made Jesus the chosen and the delight of His Father. Isaiah foretold this very gentle servant would not raise His voice in the streets, break a bruised reed, or snuff out a smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20; 20:28); nor would He be discouraged or falter until He finished the job of establishing justice on the earth, including the remote islands of the seas. Jesus Christ is not in the business of breaking off people who have become bruised reeds. Instead, He wants to bring them back to life. In Christ, they will be trimmed and changed from smoldering wicks into full-flame lights.
The light in the life of Simon Peter in Pilate's judgment hall was smoldering with only a flicker left when Peter denied three times even knowing the Lord (Matt. 26:34; Mark 14:30–31). Jesus could have easily snuffed out Peter’s faith that dark night. But Jesus' goal was to soften, not stamp out, the very hardened wick Peter had become, bringing him back to full flame. Peter was also like a bruised reed in those moments. The song was gone from his life and he knew It. Peter went out and "wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62). But Jesus succeeded. Sweet, indeed, was the “music” that came from the restored reed, the apostle to the Jews, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Luke 22:31–34; 54–62; Acts 2:14–41; Gal. 2:8).
2. The Call of the Servant (Isa. 49:1–7)
God, from eternity, gave Jesus a servant’s commission. He was the sharpened sword in His Father’s hand and the very special polished arrow in His quiver. Messiah’s job description was to call Israel back to God. But calling Israel alone was much-to-small an job description for Messiah. Instead, He would also be a “light for the Gentiles,” successfully bringing “salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). In achieving so grand an objective, Messiah’s ministry displayed the Father’s splendor.
3. The Obedience of the Servant (Isa. 50:4–9)
Isaiah portrayed the submission of the Servant, recording Jesus’ testimony in advance: “I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back” (Isa. 50:5). The prophet actually described the Messiah in the sharp terms of the self-emptying (kenosis) principle that the Incarnation revealed centuries later (John 5:19–36; Ps. 16:7–8; Acts 2:25; Phil. 2:5-11). In fact, Isaiah put this declaration in Jesus’ mouth:
"The Sovereign Lord has given Me an instructed tongue to know the Word that sustains the weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, wakens My ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign Lord has opened My ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back" (Isa. 50:4-5).
In the context of describing Messiah’s obedience, Isaiah used Jesus' suffering to model the extent of the Lord’s faithfulness: “I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My Face from mocking and spitting” (Isa. 50:6; see Mark 14:65). Isaiah even penned the Lord’s testimony as He made His last journey to Jerusalem: “I set My Face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isa. 50:7). This phrase, "put to shame" is best interpreted by adding the word, permanent -- "put to permanent shame." Jesus did drink the bitter cup of shame to its dregs, but then walked out of His tomb on the third day, never to taste shame again.
4. The Suffering of the Servant (Isa. 52:13–53:12)
As the Father’s loyal Servant, the Messiah was willing to pay the ultimate price for man’s salvation. For example, Isaiah anticipated the high cost of redemption just in the disfigurement of Messiah’s face and body, and wrote about it in the past tense, as if it had already happened. He was “marred beyond human likeness.” Jesus was also “despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (52:14; 53:3).
Isaiah’s prophecy was accurate. In Isaiah 53, the prophet wrote that Messiah submitted to His Father to the point of being “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (v. 5). He carried our punishment and healed our wounds (v. 4). The Father chose to give His Son rather than give up on humankind. Hence, God made this abused and suffering servant, Who served all the way to His shameful death, the ultimate guilt offering (v. 10), taking on Himself all our guilt. By His death, Jesus achieved His goal and satisfied the requirements of His Father for the justification of all who call on God for salvation (v. 11). Indeed, the opposite demands of justice and mercy met in harmonious embrace in Messiah's outstretched arms on Golgotha’s tree (Rom. 3:26). At Calvary, both rested their cases in the heavenly courts and were satisfied (Isa. 53:11).
The Lord’s objective, to bring the love of God to the earth, was a most challenging concept to the Hebrew mindset. The Jewish people just did not grasp that their King would come to them “gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey” (Matt. 21:5; Zech. 9:9). This difficulty also shows how far Abraham’s seed had drifted from the servant heart of God.
The Ultimate Portrait of the Servant
Some eight centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus vindicated all of Isaiah’s predictions. In His ministry years the Lord demonstrated He would serve the needs of a Roman centurion, for example, as quickly as He would a son of Abraham (Matt. 8:5–13). The Apostle Paul later perceived that in Jesus’ great mind, a centurion with a heart to believe God was a son of Abraham (Gal. 3:29).
Jesus taught His followers the best way to win people to God is to serve their deepest needs selflessly, even when they do not know what their needs are. “Whoever will be great among you,” Jesus said, “let him be your minister; and whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of Man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26–28, KJV). In fact, a requirement for a believer to be able to say truthfully, “I belong to my lover,” is to make a free and loving choice to adopt the Servant-Messiah’s attitude and lifestyle (Song of Sol. 7:10; Phil. 2:5). Doing so is also the best possible way to work out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12–13).
On Golgotha, implicit trust had its finest hour. The Cross, therefore, is the ultimate portrait of Jesus as the suffering servant of His Father. Could there be a greater example of a loving, servant-like attitude? No man before or since has demonstrated loyalty on that scale. This is all-the-more-true when one comprehends Jesus could have reached for the independent display of His omnipotence and, with a Word, sent all of His enemies into hell (Matt. 26:53; Luke 8:31–32; Rev. 20:1–3). But He did not do It; instead, He died to save Jews, Greek, Romans, and all pagans -- whosoever will in every generation.