A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: The suffering servant


Through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, God tells his people about a figure who will serve him in the future. Christians interpret this as a description of Jesus (who lived 700 years later).

The description is of someone who is not good looking or powerful, but is looked down on by others. He is used to sorrow and suffering, consistently being rejected. People think that he is under God’s curse, whereas in fact he carries the wrongdoing of humanity, for which he is punished by death. That death brings peace and healing to humankind. Although it is people who have gone off course, it is God’s servant who carries the blame.

The Lamb of GodThe servant does not speak out when persecuted, but allows himself to be led to his death silently, like a lamb which is due to be sacrificed. He is unfairly condemned and has no biological children to follow him. He is given a grave amongst rich and sinful people, although he is a man of integrity and peace.

Yet all this happens according to God’s plan, and although the servant gives his life, he will live and have descendants, bringing about God’s purposes. Because he is prepared to die, he will be honoured. His death enables the lives of many to be put right with God, because he takes away their sins.

The servant is someone anointed by God who brings good news to the poor and mends the broken-hearted. He proclaims freedom for people who are trapped and releases prisoners from all forms of darkness. He tells people that God loves them and is speaking to them now, and about God’s time of vengeance and justice against oppressors. The servant brings comfort to all who are in mourning, transforming destruction, grief and despair into beauty, joy and praise. Those who hear his message will become like strong and perfect trees displaying the splendour of God.

The passages illustrate:

  • That God has a plan to rescue his people from the consequences of their rebellion
  • Beliefs about the suffering and mission of the Messiah.

Related Topics

Big Ideas: Messiah, Christ, Jesus; Dreams, visions and prophecy; Atonement and sacrifice; Sheep, shepherd, lamb

Bible References

Isaiah 53:1-12, Isaiah 61:1-3
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