The Unjust, Willing, Sacrificial, Obedient Death on the Cross
Published April 7, 2023
Isaiah 53:7 is considered one of the most important verses in the Bible because of how it makes sense of so many other biblical passages and themes. A connecting passage that should come to mind is in Acts 8 with the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip. When Philip was led by the Holy Spirit to meet the eunuch, he heard the eunuch reading this section in Isaiah’s writings. The eunuch asked Philip, “Of whom does the prophet say this?” This question gave Philip the opportunity to “preach Jesus” to the eunuch, which culminated in the eunuch’s conversion and baptism.
In their commentary on Isaiah 53:7, Keil and Delitzsch wrote, “All the references in the New Testament to the Lamb of God spring from this passage in the book of Isaiah.”
As we continue to look at this incredible prophetic communication from Isaiah in preparation for our remembrance of Good Friday, consider four aspects of Jesus’ death in this verse.
First, Jesus died unjustly – he was oppressed. The word used by Isaiah here is found several times in Exodus 3 to speak of Israel’s oppression in Egypt. It highlights the unjust nature of Jesus’ death, which was unjust in how it was carried out by Caiaphas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod. We read in the Gospel accounts that these individuals allowed false charges and witnesses to condemn the Savior, and all of them held sham and unlawful trials to seal the Messiah’s gruesome fate at the cross.
Jesus did not deserve to die, for He had committed no sin. The question of why Jesus died is not resolved in verse seven, but in verse eight, where we learn He died for our sins. The trials and conviction of Jesus were the greatest injustices perpetrated by men in human history, reminding us of our sins and God’s holiness. We deserved conviction for all of our sins at the hands of a holy and just God, but Jesus took our place, allowing the Jewish and Roman leaders to unjustly execute Him because there was no other way to satisfy the Father’s wrath against us.
Second, Jesus died willingly – He was afflicted. Jesus’s submission to His affliction implies that there was a plan and purpose to His death, and He submitted to that plan willingly. This speaks of Jesus’s great love for His people, that He would willingly be oppressed and crucified for us. In Matthew 26:53, we learn that Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to save Him from His humiliation and death, but He did not. He willingly died an unjust death for unjust people.
Not many of us – if any – would give our lives for another human being. The apostle Paul in Romans 5 addresses this fact, writing, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.” In His divinity, Jesus knew He was the perfect sacrifice for the fallen human race; and in His humanity, He knew how much undeserved pain and agony He would endure. Yet, He went to the cross willingly.
Third, Jesus died sacrificially – like a lamb led to slaughter. He was offered up as a sacrifice. The apostle John recounts John the Baptist calling Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus also died at Passover – a revered day for Jews as they remembered how God had saved them from the hands of the Egyptians. The Jews were well educated on the importance and significance of sacrifices in their day. From the account of Cain and Abel’s offering to the laws handed down in the Mosaic Law, God demanded sacrifices for sin as a reminder that those making the offerings were not holy, that sin was a curse that demanded a death, and that one day the promised Messiah would come to cleanse them once and for all from all unrighteousness.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, tells us that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed with the violent, bloody death of the cross. The blood of Christ, our Passover, thus covers us, delivering us from bondage to the devil, the flesh, and the world. Because of His sacrifice, there is no further need for any sacrifices like those demanded before His death in the Mosaic Law. The curtain was torn in two, and we have full access through God the Father through the blood of His Son.
Fourth, Jesus died obediently – like a sheep that is silent. This silence is a significant burden of the text, highlighting the obedient, suffering Servant. Jesus was not merely willing to die, but he was perfectly obedient to His Father in His death on the cross. 1 Peter 2:23-24 notes that Jesus’s obedience shows us the key to faithful obedience: entrusting ourselves to God. His obedience was to enable ours; Jesus died obediently so we might live obedient lives.
Even as believers, we struggle with obedience to our Lord. Though we are being made more like Jesus, we will never be free from the fight with our mortal flesh this side of heaven. Yet, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’s perfect life, and His perfect obedience on the cross, allows all those who trust in Him for forgiveness of their sins to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Salvation can only be found in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was sacrificed on a cross for the sins of all those who would believe in His atoning work. As we mark this Good Friday, let us give thanks for Jesus’s willingness to die and His perfect example of obedience so that we might live forever with Him in glory.