The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah when Philip approached him. The section he was reading says, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). The eunuch needed help to understand this passage, so Philip showed him that this was prophecy about Jesus.
This great chapter in Isaiah gives many other predictions of Jesus. It says that He would be despised and rejected by men (v. 3). Jesus was (John 1:10). He “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (v. 5). Jesus died for our sins (I Cor. 15:3). The Messiah was to be numbered with transgressors (v. 12). Jesus was crucified between two thieves (Mark 15:27). Isaiah said that he would make intercession for transgressors (v. 12). Jesus prayed for the Jews who had Him crucified (Luke 23:34). The astonishing part is that Isaiah wrote these and other things about Jesus over 700 years before He was born!
Have you ever wondered how Jews look at this passage today? How can they read Isaiah 53 and not see Jesus?
Many Jewish scholars say that Isaiah 53 is not about an individual Messiah. They argue that this chapter is about the Jewish nation, not Jesus. In other words, they say that the Jewish nation has been despised and rejected by men. They tell us that the Jewish people have been unlawfully numbered with transgressors over the years. This is usually the angle they use to keep from admitting that this is a prophecy of Jesus the Messiah.
There are many flaws in this interpretation. One of the most obvious mistakes is how it looks at verse five. The Jewish nation was not “wounded for our transgressions.” Jews say that one person cannot atone for another person’s sins. That’s why they strongly reject the vicarious offering of Jesus on the cross to atone for our sins. But the One Isaiah is talking about did suffer and die for our sins even though He was sinless (v. 9)!
The ironic part is how many evangelical churches view Israel today in light of Isaiah 53. They strongly disagree with the Jewish interpretation. They maintain that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy of Jesus. They insist that the Jewish nation did not suffer and die for our transgressions. Jesus alone did that. On that point we would agree with them.
Those same evangelicals, however, boldly preach that we must support Israel if we want God to bless us. They take us back to Genesis 12:3 where God said to Abraham concerning his descendants the Jews, “I will bless them that bless thee, and cursed him that curseth thee.” They warn that God will curse us if we don’t support Israel politically, financially, and spiritually.
Even God himself did not always bless the Israelites. He preserved their nation until the coming of Jesus the Messiah, but many times he punished them severely as a people. When Jesus accomplished His mission and established the church, the kingdom of Old Testament prophecy, the old law and the nation of Israel had served its purpose. The law ended (Col. 2:14: Eph. 2:15). Now Jews and Gentiles are on the same level before God. Both must believe in Jesus and obey the same gospel to be saved (Rom. 1:16). When they do, they are members of the same body as brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29).
Because the Jews rejected God’s last attempt to show His love for them, the Lord pronounced doom upon the nation of Israel. He said, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof” (Matt. 21:43). That nation is the Gentile people.