Easter really happened. They happened to a real person on a real cross at a real place at a real time in history. The gospel is grounded in real, verifiable historical events. Did you know there is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of 33—and so many other things we never question?
Even though there are thousands of witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and tens of thousands of documents verifying this, in my opinion, Isaiah 53 is the most important. Why? Because it was written 700 years before Jesus was ever born.
Skeptics claimed Isaiah 53 was changed to more closely resemble Jesus's claims. But when the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written before Jesus walked the earth, were found, these same skeptics were shocked because Isaiah's words had not been changed.
Verse 1 says, "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
Even though those who spent time with Jesus witnessed His miracles, they weren't looking for a spiritual leader. Having heard about—or being among the crowd—those who were fed from a handful of fish and loaves, they found it difficult to understand what Jesus said in John 6:35.
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."
In John 12:37-38, John writes, "Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'"
Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was despised and rejected by men."
Verse 5 says, "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 [stripes] wounds we are healed."
Chastisement is the infliction of corporal punishment. And the type of punishment Isaiah describes refers to scourging (whipping). If the Jews did the scourging, painful though it would have been, it would have ended with 39 or 40 stripes. However, the Romans had no limit. Therefore, Jesus may have been whipped far more than 40 times.
It's hard to imagine the level of hatred necessary to deliver an innocent man to such a fate. Yet, the Jewish leaders and Pilate did this very thing, knowing Jesus was innocent. This was a terrible, painful ordeal, which shredded the sinless Messiah's flesh.
Afterwards, they stripped Him, put a scarlet robe on him, and pressed a crown of thorns onto His head. They put a reed in his right hand. They knelt before Him and mocked, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
Then, they spit on Him, took the reed, and struck him on the head. Jesus was shamed, humiliated, mocked, and beaten bloody though He was holy and perfect.
Even more shocking was how He responded.
Isaiah 53:7 says, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth."
It's one thing to be led to the slaughter knowing you have no power to fight back or retaliate. It's another to know you have the power to strike down your torturers.
Verse 12 says He "was numbered with the transgressors."
"He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people," (Isaiah 53:8).
"He poured out his soul to death" (verse 12).
Jesus wasn't "put to death." He chose to die in our place.
John 19:30 says, "'It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (emphasis mine).
It was unthinkable that a "criminal" who had been put to death on a cross would fulfill Isaiah 53:9, which says, "And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death."
But that's exactly what happened when the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, requested the body of the Savior, wrapped his body in linen, and buried him in a tomb cut into a rock.
As remarkable as this is, if that were the end of the story, all would be lost. Instead verses 10 and 11 of Isaiah 53 point to the resurrection. These words could not be true of a dead man.
"When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied."
God the Father was satisfied by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and Christ will be equally satisfied by seeing all His children gathered around Him in glory.
Because all of this is true, we must ask ourselves what it means to us.
Jesus was fully man, but He was also fully God.
John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
In verse 14 of the same chapter, we read, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Philippians 2:6-7 says, "… who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."
Jesus spoke the heavens and the earth into existence. Yet, He willingly left the glories of heaven and took on flesh. He chose to subject himself to the limitations of our nature. Although He never gave in to temptation, Jesus knew what it was like to be fully human.
Jesus experienced sorrow and grief. The King of Heaven became homeless. The Light of the World took on the appearance of an Everyday Joe. Still, He was God.
He could have commanded the ground to swallow up His accusers. He could have commanded the armies of heaven to strike down those who would do Him harm. But He remained silent in order to accomplish what He had been sent to do. The great God of the universe, the One who spoke the heavens and the earth into existence, the One who molded the mountains and carved out the sea, chose to be laid in a manger at His birth, to minister for a brief three-and-a-half years, and to willingly give up His life for us.
He tells His disciples in Luke 9:22, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."
And in John 10:11, 18, He says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep … No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."
He had always known what lay ahead of Him—and He willingly chose to walk the path. He did so because sin requires a sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice. We've all sinned and cannot pay the price for that sin.
Isaiah 53:11 says, "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities."
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul says, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
He suffered for of us. He was wounded for us. He was crushed for us. He was chastised for us. He died a sinner's death to make a way for sinners to be forgiven. His resurrection is the proof that His work on the cross satisfied the wrath of God.
In verse 12 of Isaiah 53, the prophet tells us the result of the Savior's death and resurrection. "Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong."
These are military terms. Christ is being represented as a military victor, the conquering Savior. The cross wasn't a mistake. To this day, He considers it and is satisfied.
What does Jesus's death and resurrection mean for us?
The key to eternal, everlasting joy is trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, trusting in His work on the cross, trusting that He was raised from the dead, trusting that He ascended into heaven. And when we trust in Christ as our Savior, we're "accounted righteous" (verse 11).
This has nothing to do with our efforts. The only reason anyone can enter Paradise is because God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ when we come to saving faith.
Ezekiel 36:26 says, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone ... and give you a heart of flesh."
When we put our trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, He replaces our hard heart, the heart we're born with, with one that is receptive to His Spirit, one that seeks to draw close to Him.
Because of the cross, because of the empty tomb, because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we don't have to experience God's wrath. It has been satisfied. If we have turned away from self-rule and trusted in the work of Christ, then we are made new. Praise God for the cross! Praise God for the empty tomb! Because of the cross and the empty tomb, we can now experience the everlasting joy found in Christ the Lord.
If you've never trusted in Jesus, never turned from your sin and put your faith, hope, and trust in what He did on the cross, never truly rejoiced in what He accomplished at the resurrection, I urge you to do so today. Trust in Him, cry out to Him, and He will save you and give you a new heart.