Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men — so shall he startle many nations...Isaiah 52:13-15a RSV
This section, which describes the remarkable impact that the Messiah would make upon mankind, opens with a declaration that he would be successful in all that he did:
Behold, my servant shall prosper. That success would be accomplished in three specific stages, described here:
He shall be exalted; he shall be lifted up; he shall be very high.
First, in the words,
He shall be exalted, there is a reference to the resurrection. Jesus was brought back from the dead, stepping into a condition of life that no man had ever entered before. Lazarus had been resurrected, in a sense, but he merely returned to this earthly life. Jesus, however, became the
firstborn from the dead, (Colossians 1:18). He was thus exalted to a higher dimension of existence.
he shall be lifted up. After his resurrection, Jesus took his disciples to the Mount of Olives and while he was speaking to them he ascended into the heavens until a cloud received him out of sight. So he was physically and literally
Thirdly, the passage says,
He shall be very high. The Hebrew puts it rather graphically:
He shall be high, very. We cannot but recall the words of the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Philippians:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11). Thus by his resurrection, his ascension, and his kingly exaltation the Messiah has made tremendous impact upon humanity.
Further, it is said of him here that
many were astonished at him. This happened in two different ways. First, as Verse 14 implies, many were
astonished at his death:
His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men. This is descriptive of the face of Jesus after he had endured the terrible Roman scourging, the beatings, the blows to his face with the rod, which the soldiers mockingly called a king's scepter, and the crushing of the crown of thorns upon his head. This is what the prophet sees: our Lord's appearance was so marred that those who passed by were
astonished at his visage.
But Verse 15 describes another form of astonishment:
so shall he startle many nations. This refers to the tremendous accomplishments he achieved, not only during his ministry, but through the intervening centuries since. Many have commented on the remarkable achievements of Jesus. G.K. Chesterton, that remarkable English Christian novelist and literary critic, once told of a man he'd read of who dwelt in the East centuries ago, and how he could not from then on look at a sheep or a sparrow, a lily or a cornfield, a raven or a sunset, a vineyard or a mountain without thinking of that man. Chesterton wondered that if this was not divine, what then was it? Truly, our Lord has made an astonishing impact upon our world. He is the Man who cannot be forgotten.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all you have done for me. I praise you and worship you that you are One who continues to astonish me with your impact upon my own life and many others throughout the world.
The Man Jesus has made an incomparable impact on world history. What are three specific and startling fulfillments of scripture describing details of His unique appearance? How do we respond to this, the greatest story ever told?