By Sam Shamoun
In this section we will take a look at how Luke identifies Christ as the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah, the One whom God highly exalts and glorifies after first giving his life up as a an offering for all the transgressions committed by God’s people. This will provide further confirmation that Luke-Acts both teach that a person is saved by the vicarious death of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf.
Since Luke-Acts were written in Greek we will therefore be quoting from the English translation of the Greek version of Isaiah, commonly referred to as the Septuagint (LXX). This will help the readers see all the places where Luke makes reference to this prophecy from Isaiah to describe the Lord Jesus.
Note carefully what the prophet says about this unique individual:
“Behold, my servant (ho pais mou) shall understand, and be exalted (hypsothesetai), and glorified exceedingly (doxasthesetai). As many shall be amazed at thee, so shall thy face be without glory from men, and thy glory [shall not be honoured] by the sons of men. Thus shall many nations wonder at him; and kings shall keep their mouths shut: for they to whom no report was brought concerning him, shall see; and they who have not heard, shall consider.” Isaiah 52:13-15
“O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? We brought a report as [of] a child (paidion) before him; [he is] as a root in a thirsty land: he has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty. But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; [he was] a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, for his face is turned from [us]: he was dishonoured, and not esteemed. He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; [and] by his bruises we were healed. All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins. And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In [his] humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death. And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth. The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed: the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form [him] with understanding; to justify the just one (dikaion) who serves many well; and he shall bear their sins. Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:1-12
Let us now turn our attention to Luke-Acts to see how the Lord Jesus and his followers applied the foregoing prophecy to Christ’s death and subsequent exaltation into heaven:
“For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfilment.” Luke 22:37 – cf. Isaiah 53:12
“But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Can′dace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: ‘As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth.’ And the eunuch said to Philip, ‘About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.” Acts 8:26-39 – cf. Isaiah 53:7-8
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots… Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man (dikaios).’” Luke 23:32-34, 46-47 New International Version (NIV)
“The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus (edoxasen ton Paida autou, 'Iesoun), whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One (Dikaion), and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses… God, having raised up his servant (ton Paida autou), sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:13-15, 26
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus (hagion Paida sou 'Iesoun), whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel… while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus (tou hagiou paidos sou, 'Iesou).” Acts 4:27, 30
“God exalted him (hypsosen) at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31
“Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One (tou Dikaiou), whom you have now betrayed and murdered,” Acts 7:52
“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One (ton Dikaion) and to hear a voice from his mouth;’” Acts 22:14
Not only do we find direct quotations from Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we also have the very titles and ascriptions used to describe the Servant being applied to Christ. This, therefore, shows that Jesus is the Suffering Servant whose death procures the salvation of the world.
In other words, by identifying Jesus as the Servant spoken of in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Luke is essentially proclaiming that it is Christ’s death on the cross that brings about redemption and the forgiveness of sins. This point can be further seen from the following references:
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is MY BODY which is given FOR YOU. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out FOR YOU is the new covenant in MY BLOOD.’” Luke 22:19-20
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28 NIV
Jesus is the God whose physical body was broken and whose blood was shed in order to purchase the body of believers called the church.
Could Luke have been any clearer that salvation comes from believing that the Lord Jesus came into the world to redeem sinners by his perfect righteous life and vicarious death on the cross?
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural citations taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.