When Jesus Became Poor

And Emptied Himself

Part Two

Behold, My Servant

When we see this picture of the humility of Christ, it brings another passage of Scripture into focus. When we take a closer look at the Servant passages of Isaiah, specifically in 52-53, we see this same picture of Christ’s humility.

13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Traditionally, verse 14 is said to describe the horrible abuse Christ endured on account of His beating and crucifixion. According to modern translations, the abuse was so horrific, it turned him into something unrecognizable as a human.

Isaiah 52:14

(just as many were horrified by the sight of you) he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; (NET)

Just as many were appalled at you — his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being (CSB)

But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.(NLT)

We will see shortly, that this understanding is relatively new, as translations go.

Not to minimize the truth of the abuse Jesus endured, for it truly was horrific. But is this what this verse is describing? I think not. There is another way of viewing this verse, that I believe is closer to its true intent.

To come to a true understanding of this passage, you must answer one question first. Is the marring of the visage and form, referring to Jesus in His incarnate form as man, or the pre-incarnate form of the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah? The proper interpretation is based upon the marring of the visage and form of the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. His visage and form was "marred" when He came in the likeness of men, and took upon Himself the form of a servant. This is the marring or disfigurement I believe this passage speaks of.

The translation of this verse has varied over the centuries. We will look at these variations shortly.

First of all, there is nothing in these three verses that speak of beatings or abuse, being the reason for His visage and form being marred. It is not until later in the prophecy (chapter 53), that we are told of His being wounded, bruised, and bearing stripes. But the writer does not connect these to His marring.

I believe what we have here is Isaiah’s version of the description of Christ, emptying Himself and becoming poor. It would help us to understand, that it is not His visage and form as man, that was marred. The visage and form that was marred was His being the Servant of the Lord, the Arm of the Lord, the Messiah. It was this form that was marred, as we shall see.

vs. 13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

Isaiah begins the Servant passages, or prophecies, in chapter 41. It is admitted by most Bible Scholars, that these Servant passages speak of the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah.

Here, as God speaks through Isaiah, He says His Servant shall deal prudently, or wisely. He shall also be exalted and extolled. He shall be very high. This exaltation is not given a time-frame or window, in which it will happen. As with many of God’s sayings, because He sees the end from the beginning, He simply proclaims the end result of an action. This is what we have here. God is stating that as a result of His servant dealing wisely, He shall be exalted.

Paul tells us of this exaltation. Because of Christ’s obedience unto the death of the cross,

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The exaltation of the Servant of the Lord, comes after His obedience to His Father, which is the ultimate act of wisdom.

14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

Many were “astonied” (astonished) at the Servant of the Lord. The word, translated here as astonied, can mean to be appalled or to be awestruck. The Servant caused many to have a visceral reaction, of being appalled and repulsed, or of standing in awe and wonder. How the Servant can cause such distinct and opposing reactions is amazing. Those who are appalled, are so, because they cannot accept that the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah, would come to them in the manner He did. Hence, they would reject Him because He did not appear as they had anticipated. Isaiah informs us later what was the reaction of those who saw Him.

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Pay particular attention to the phrases in verse two.

He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Isaiah says for those who saw Him, there was glory or beauty in His appearance or presentation that should cause them to desire Him or to recognize His true self. If you were to put Jesus in a lineup with seven other Judeans, and have someone try to pick out the Messiah, there would be nothing about Him that stood out. He looked like a Judean among other Judeans.

Those who were awestruck, were struck in faith. They are amazed that this one before them is the Messiah, the Anointed of God. They were able to look past the outer appearance of being a servant and see with the eyes of faith, that He was indeed the Lord’s Messiah.

His visage was so marred” — The visage is that which meets the eyes. Marred is a disfigurement or a corruption. So here, we have a statement saying, The Servant of the Lord’s outer appearance was corrupted or disfigured. This is critical to our understanding. As we have already noted, it is the marring of the visage and form of the Servant of the Lord that this verse speaks of, not the marring of a man. How was the Servant of the Lord's outer appearance disfigured?

It was not just His outer appearance or visage that was corrupted and disfigured, but His form as well. The visage is that which strikes the eyes. What would strike your eyes if you could look upon the preexistent Messiah? It would be the blinding Glory of God. The form is the actual shape, outline, or figure of something. It is not just signifying a shape or figure, but that this shape is beautiful or comely. It is the same word used to describe Rachel in contrast to Leah [Gen. 29:17]. His beautiful form was disfigured, as well as His glory.

What is the cause of this disfigurement of His visage and form? In the KJV, as well as other translations, they lean toward the familiar idea that He became marred “more than” man or the sons of men. This is a translation of the Hebrew preposition, #4480 מִן min. “Min” has a wide range of meanings, which depends upon its context. Along with, more than, it also means, on account of, which in this context, makes the most sense. It also harmonizes with the two passages of Paul (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:7). It is very possible this verse(Isa. 52:14), is where Paul received his imagery of the emptying of Christ and His becoming poor.

So, how should the verse read? Remember, we are talking about the Servant of the Lord, the Word of God, the Messiah, who always existed in Glory with His Father. The following is how I believe this verse is best understood, based upon what we have already seen.

As many were appalled and awestruck at You. His outer appearing (glory) was disfigured on account of man, and His beautiful form on account of the sons of men.
[Wishon translation]

When you compare the Glory of His visage and the Beautiful form of God in which He eternally existed, with the lowly form of a human slave, it can be seen as nothing but, a disfigurement. He was disfigured when He emptied Himself of His rightful Glory, and took upon Himself the form of a slave. He was disfigured by becoming poor for our sakes, so that we might receive the wealth of His Mercy and Grace.

No amount of physical abuse can compare to the marring of the Glorious form of God, which was His from eternity. This cannot be a description of the physical abuse and beatings He endured at the hands of men, as horrific as it was. It cannot be comparable to the disfiguring of His visage and form, by becoming a man, even a slave, who dies as a criminal upon a cross.