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Once again our nation has launched into a long season of political campaigning for the top office in the land … a competition that will extend until November of next year. Each candidate tries to put their best foot forward and avoid the gaffes that would knock them out of the race. Perhaps you watched the recent Republican debate where there were too many candidates for the prime time event. They had to divide into two groups – an afternoon and a prime time group – in order to provide some measure of exposure for all. Each candidate seeks greater name recognition and publicity for their background, track record, and capabilities. Each candidate seeks to highlight areas in which they stand out as remarkable – where they can distinguish themselves from one another. Each candidate closely monitors the polls and hopes to see their popularity numbers on the rise so that they can continue to solicit donations and remain a player in the race.

In other nations where the form of government is a monarchy instead of via election by a democratic process of voting, the heir to the throne is always presented as magnificent and royal and impressive. He has the best advantages of upbringing and education and social status. He wears the finest clothes and receives the respect and deference and almost worship of all the subjects of his kingdom.

But when God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, (Gal. 4:4) His Son looked nothing like these other impressive figures.

– He didn’t have makeup artists to prepare him to look great under the bright lights of the TV audience;

– He didn’t have a prestigious Public Relations firm to manage his image and always present him in the best light;

– He didn’t have $600 haircuts and beard trimmings and the finest clothes in the land and the most impressive chariot to carry him around in a pope type caravan

When we examine the coming of the Messiah, we do not see the profile of a successful political candidate … Instead we find one who is largely Unknown, Unremarkable, Unpopular


True for the Jewish nation; true for people that we witness to today


A. Unknown Due to Lack of Faith

“Who has believed our message?”

You must see Jesus with the eyes of faith

The nation of Israel is speaking here – as the believing remnant saved in the day of the Lord that now looks back to confess their former spiritual blindness

MacArthur: When they [the Jewish nation] do turn to Christ, this will be their confession. You notice as I read, all the way down to verse 10 the verbs are in the past tense. Most people think of this chapter as a future prophecy concerning Christ and it is that. It gives us so many details about Christ and His death and burial and resurrection and exaltation, as to be unmistakably a prophecy of Him. But it is not written in the future tense. It is not a prophet prophesying what will happen to Jesus. It is a prophet prophesying the salvation of Israel in the future when they look back and say this about the Messiah they rejected and crucified. It is the lament of Israel when they look back on the Messiah that they have long rejected.

Zech. 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

Very few believers in the world – even among the Jews, His own people.

Remember Isaiah’s commission (Is. 6:8-10) – He was promised that he would get very little receptivity to his divine message

“message” = the thing heard – what the prophets have been preaching

Salvation was of the Jews – it was a message that came first to them and after that to the Gentiles

Parunak: Context: talking about the report that someone brings – How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news; Israel was not sending a message to someone else but receiving a message; mentions the arm of the Lord being revealed; 51:9; Jews look at themselves: we had the testimony of the Scriptures – which among us believed it? We had such an advantage and did not respond like the Gentile kings will;

quoted twice in NT:

John 12:37-43 – Greeks seeking Jesus (despite very little information); though He had done so many miracles before the Jews, they had not believed Him

Rom. 10:16-17 – Paul lamenting the state of Israel – my heart is that they might be saved; vs. 10; vs.16 – the Jews have not all believed; confession of Jewish failure to believe despite their advantages

What is the explanation for this lack of faith?

B. Unknown Due to Lack of Connectivity to the Power of God

“And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Goes back to the issue of Divine Election and God’s sovereignty; only the Holy Spirit can bring a person to the point of repentance and faith

Young: The arm of the Lord is used by metonymy for the Lord’s strength. The revelation of the Lord’s strength and believing what we have proclaimed are two aspects of the same thing. The revelation of God’s arm upon a person is one of power (cf. Jer. 17:5), and hence to believe the report proclaimed is evidence that the Lord’s power has been manifested. It is the arm of the Lord that brought the nation out of Egypt (cf. 51:9-10; 63:12), and this arm of power enables a man to believe. The passage clearly teaches that faith is a gift of God and not a work of man’s unaided power. It also teaches that unless God manifests His power, men will not be converted.

John 12:37-38; see also John 1:11

The message does not lack power —

Rom. 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Guzik: In this context of the Messiah’s suffering and agony, this line seems out of place. The arm of the Lord is a picture of His strength, power, and might. Yet we will see a Messiah weak and suffering. But the strength, power, and might of God will be expressed in the midst of this suffering, seemingly weak Messiah.

Why was the message so difficult for the Jews to believe?


A. Unremarkable Background – His Origins and Life

1. Known by His Heavenly Father

“For He grew up before Him”

Young: The servant lived the entire course of his earthly life in the presence of God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4).

2. Two Comparisons – Inconsequential and Unsubstantial

a. Inconsequential, Weak

“like a tender shoot,”

2 possibilities:

– Tender shoot = a suckling off a tree trunk; you usually prune those so they don’t suck life from the tree; nothing of significance; this seems more parallel with the following comparison of the root; also the verb that speaks of growing up – Is. 11:1

– Suckling child – Parunak argues for this interpretation — Is. 11:8 – “The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra”

Scott Grant: A tender shoot is a suckling on a trunk that sucks life from the tree. That’s how Jesus was viewed—as leading a renegade movement that threatened the Jewish establishment. Parched ground is a place where you don’t expect a root. Jesus came from what was deemed the “parched ground” of Nazareth (John 1:46), Galilee (John 7:52) and a carpenter (Matthew 13:55).

“Shoot” and “root” are messianic terms in Isaiah’s language. Israel, when it is defeated by Babylon, will be like a felled tree whose stump remains, and the stump, the “holy seed,” or remnant, ultimately produces Christ (Isaiah 6:13, Romans 1:3, Galatians 3:29). “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). Jesse was the father of King David, and that line produced the greater king, Jesus, the messianic shoot and branch

Constable: Instead of appearing as a mighty oak or a flourishing fruit tree, the Servant would grow up before the Lord as a sucker, a normally unwanted shoot that sprouts up from a root (cf. 11:1; 1 Sam.16:5-13)

b. Unsubstantial

“and like a root out of parched ground;”

Beall: He is as a root out of a dry ground, i.e., with very little promise of amounting to anything in man’s eyes. The mention of a “root” recalls an earlier Messianic prophecy, Isa 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots” (see also 4:2). . . The Servant did not come in outward appearance as a royal king, but rather as an inconspicuous child. The birth in a stable at Bethlehem is surely a fulfillment of this prophecy.

Motyer: he seemed to have a wholly earthly or natural origin: the imagery of growth out of the soil points to a human “family tree”

B. Unremarkable Bearing – His Presence — Not a Charismatic, Majestic Presence

“He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him.

Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”

Jim Bomkamp: indicates that the coming of God’s ‘ideal servant’ would not be through the normal channels of royalty and royal dignity. Though he would be a physical descendant of King David, as both Matthew and Luke provide for us in Jesus’ genealogy, and though he would one day rule over the entire earth for eternity, yet his coming would be amongst very common folk.

Oswalt: Deliverers are dominating, forceful, attractive people, who by their personal magnetism draw people to themselves and convince people to do what they want them to do. People who refuse to follow that leadership frequently find themselves crushed and tossed aside. This man does not fit that picture at all

Candidates now are using humble beginnings as their proud mark of identification with the plight of common man … but it was not always that way with regards to leadership – especially in monarchies where you had family succession to the throne of power; your pedigree and upbringing were of supreme importance … more like Downton Abbey

Motyer: Majesty signifies the outward impressiveness expected of an important person.

Guzik: This means that when we try to attract people to Jesus through form or comeliness, or beauty, we are using methods that run counter to the nature of Jesus. These days it appears that we must dress up the gospel to make it attractive. We have to use the methods of technique which must be smart, well-presented, streamlined. There must be something about the presentation of the gospel that will appeal to people . . . to what is called the modern mind. I wonder if we stop to think that in our efforts to make the gospel message attractive we are drawing a curtain across the face of Jesus in His humiliation? The only one who can make Him attractive is the Holy Spirit. (Redpath)

Alan Carr: The Real Beauty of Jesus

There is, however, an old saying that goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” This was certainly the case with Jesus Christ. It was not what men saw, but what they could not see that made Him extra-ordinary.

•Born to peasant parents.

•Born in a manger, not a palace.

•Poverty His constant companion.

•His Disciples were just common fishermen.

•Common peasants were His most devoted followers.

•His death was among the condemned and wretched.

•His church, for the most part, is made up of the lowly.

Many might think that such a man is not worthy of our love, devotion and worship. However, with Jesus, His real beauty lies not in what men can see, but in what He has done. It is in the things which Jesus accomplished for you and me that His real beauty lies. So, dismiss from your mind every artist’s rendering on Jesus you have ever seen. Forget all illusions you may have conjured up concerning Him and today, just look beyond the Man. Look instead to what He did. For it is in the work of Jesus that His real beauty is seen.


A. Unpopular by Virtue of His Identification With the Sins of Humanity

“He was despised and forsaken of men,

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;”

Young: far from following him, they shunned him.

Scott Grant: In the fourth Servant Song, Isaiah uses several different words for sin, probably to show the different forms it takes and effects it has. The first two of these words are “sorrows” and “grief.” The Servant was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” This does not mean that the Servant was a sinner but that sin affected him deeply. The word “sorrow,” though used in connection with sin in Isaiah 53, was usually used to convey mental and emotional anguish. He was a “man of sorrows”—to some extent he was characterized by mental and emotional anguish. Because of sin, the Servant suffered mental and emotional anguish. The word “grief,” also used here in connection with sin, was usually used to convey illness or weakness. Because of sin, the Servant was “acquainted with grief”—it’s as if he’s had so much experience with illness and weakness that he knows them personally.

Why was the Servant a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Certainly, it has something to do with the way he was treated. If you’re despised, you’re likely to experience sorrow and grief. But if you’re despised and you love the people who despise you, you will grieve for them. The Pharisees despised Jesus, but he was “grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5). And somehow, the Servant also bore the griefs and carried the sorrows of others (Isaiah 53:4). That’s just what Jesus did on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24). Sin causes sorrow and grief for the sinner and the victim. In his life, and particularly in his death, Jesus felt that grief and sorrow. And if in the end you feel that you are on the verge of being forsaken by God himself, you might say what Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before he was abandoned by God as he suffered for sins (Mark 15:34): “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death…” (Mark 14:34).

B. Unpopular by Virtue of His Ignoble Death on the Cross

“And like one from whom men hide their face.

He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

Guzik: Because there was nothing outwardly beautiful or charismatic about the Messiah, mankind’s reaction was to withdraw from Him, to despise Him, and hold Him in low esteem. This shows that men value physical beauty and charisma far more than God does, and when we don’t see it, we can reject the ones God accepts.

Martin Luther: “We estimated Him at nothing.” We counted Him a zero. We didn’t give Him a second thought. That is how much we valued Him.

Ps. 118:22 “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Quoted by Peter in 1 Pet. 2:6-8


Quite a downer note to stop on for today — UNKNOWN, UNREMARKABLE, UNPOPULAR

This will be the lament of Israel in the last days – looking back on the Messiah they had rejected. Don’t let this be your lament today.