He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. ~Isaiah 53:3
Sitting around the table for what we call “Morning Meeting” today, this phrase “Man of Sorrows” was brought up and wondered about by the boys as we were reading through different prophecies for the coming Christ. So we began to take this one title apart, looking to understand more fully what was meant by Isaiah in this prophecy.
In Hebrew, the phrase “Man of Sorrows” signifies sickness or pain, suffering, anguish. Jesus’ flesh was just as frail as mine or yours. He was easily injured just as we are, and his nerves weren’t stronger or less responsive. He opened Himself up to illness, pain, loss, and fatigue – all things that are part of the curse of sin.
He was a man so full of suffering, rejection, and pain that it becomes one of His titles. Why? Christ’s life began in rejection and sorrow. Herod sought to kill him as a child. We see the lack of initial understanding of his parents at 12 in the temple, and then as he moved into ministry, the Pharisees actively led the Israelites in rejection of him and sought to trick him at every turn. His ministry moved among the lowly, afflicted, the lost. Christ saw the people without a shepherd, and it grieved him deeply in Mark 6. Most crowds, however, used Him for what He could do and then left. Christ spent years on earth seeing the depths of the hearts of men – their layers of sin that result in an outcome of death, despair, hopelessness. He sought to consistently speak to their need for salvation through Him, yet He fully knew the path and the cost of redemption for himself.
He grieved in the Garden afflicted with great sorrow so much so that He sweats blood. At the time of his greatest need, he asked for companionship from his disciples, a fellow banding together to walk with Him in final sorrows, but He was still rejected by those who claimed to love Him most.
On the way to the cross, man ceased to see Jesus as human, ceased to have a measure of compassion and instead meted out the highest level of punishment before the crucifixion. Then on the cross, Christ was afflicted with real spiritual suffering so tremendous and without bounds as the sins of the world are placed on Him. He experienced the fullness of God’s holy wrath; the full breaking of their glorious union – the tearing away of it to save you and me. He was broken in sin and death, wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. For we are healed by His stripes, brought to peace through his chastisement.
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him, Isaiah 53:2. We live in a culture that openly values beauty, majesty, great form – those who possess these are given platforms, power, attention. Christ was none of these, therefore then as now He was despised and rejected. But despite his great sufferings He willingly walked to the cross out of love so that the free gift of grace would abound to many, leading to justification, righteousness, and life.