Controversy swirls around the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Scholars question the author, or authors, as well as the date and central theme of the book. Further complicating matters is that the book is deeper than it is wide, and with sixty-six chapters that’s saying a lot.
Historically, Christians have understood the “Suffering Servant” described in chapter 53 as speaking of Jesus Christ some seven hundred years before his incarnation. Some of the most majestic and familiar verses in the entire Bible are found in this chapter including,
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6).
But before describing the “crushing” of the servant, Isaiah describes the servant as someone with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2).
Imagine that. If Christ was standing in front of you at the checkout line, your only thought would be for him to move along.
Because of Christ’s divinity, it’s easy for us to forget his humanity. But when we do, we believe in someone other than Christ.
In his Introduction to J. B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches: a Translation of the New Testament Epistles, C. S. Lewis argues that the beauty of the Authorized Version of the Bible can do us a disservice. It can lead one to think that Christianity, and Christ himself, is nothing but beauty. Lewis reminds us that this is not the case. He writes,
“The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the world in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorized Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly king. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in.”1
Just as a tuning fork strikes the definite, constant pitch that serves as the standard by which everything else is adjusted, so a Biblical understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ, including both his humanity and his divinity, is necessary for anyone to know him.
“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” – Philippians 3:10.
- J. B. Phillips, Letters to Young Churches: a Translation of the New Testament Epistles (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958), vii. Italics in original.