Today we have reached the heart of Isaiah’s message. He sees a new day when God’s Messiah would enter into the experience of human suffering on the cross. This is a claim so scandalous that Paul would later say, I am not ashamed of the gospel. Have you ever thought about why Paul would even need to make a statement like that? He does so because what Jesus endured on the cross was designed to be the most shameful way to suffer and die.
As they sought to make sense of what happened to Jesus, the New Testament writers went back to an old prophesy from the pen of Isaiah. Here are a few sections of this prophecy from Isaiah 52-53.
See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted….there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness…
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces…
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter….He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
Isaiah sees God’s Messiah who will bear the sins of the people, becoming a kind of sacrificial lamb. Over the next few posts, I want to look at how Isaiah’s prophesy was fulfilled through the death of Jesus.
One of the reasons the Pharisees rejected Jesus as the Messiah was because He rejected their traditions and man-made laws. And yet, the Pharisees and Sadducees were willing to break their own rules and regulations when it came to the arrest and trial of Jesus. The following list was modified from a list compiled by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum showing a number of the laws of the Sanhedrin that were broken in the arrest and trial of Jesus.
- There was to be no arrest by religious authorities that was effected by a bribe.
- No steps of criminal proceedings were to take place after sunset.
- Judges or members of the Sanhedrin were not allowed to participate in an arrest.
- There were to be no trials before the morning sacrifice.
- There were to be no secret trials, only public hearings.
- Sanhedrin trials could only be conducted in the Hall of Judgment of the Temple compound.
- During the trial, the defense had the first word before the prosecutors could present the accusations.
- There were to be two or three witnesses and their testimonies had to agree in every detail.
- There was to be no allowance for the accused to testify against himself or be condemned solely on the basis of his own words.
- The high priest was forbidden to rend his garments.
- Judges could not initiate the charges; they could only investigate charges brought to them.
- The accusation of blasphemy was only valid if the name of God itself was pronounced.
- The verdict could not be announced at night.
- The trial and the guilty verdict could not occur at the same time, but had to be separated by at least 24 hours.
- A unanimous decision for guilt showed innocence, since it was impossible for 23-71 men to agree without conspiring. (There were 71 members of the Sanhedrin. Not all members needed to be present for the proceedings, but there had to be a minimum of 23 members present. We don’t know how many were present for the trial of Jesus, but it seems that at least two of them were missing: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.)
- Judges were to be humane and kind.
- A person condemned to death was not to be scourged or beaten before his execution.
That’s at least 17 Sanhedrin laws that were violated during the arrest and trial of Jesus. This fulfills what Isaiah prophesied: that the Messiah would be oppressed and afflicted.