Christ The Startling One

Isaiah 52:15

The Golden Passional of the Old Testament - Christ The Startling One

"So shall He startle many nations" (Isa 52:15, R.V., margin.)

(This study appears in the author's "Cameos of Our Lord," but is here reproduced with additional thoughts, to complete the series of studies.)

During the last few years the nations of the world have been startled as never before. The greatest war of all time sobered and alarmed them, and post-war happenings have continued to agitate and unsettle. But if this short inspired utterance means anything, it announces another and a greater startling, and that by the Lord Jesus Christ. Many scholars object to the A.V. reading of Isa 52:15. Without doubt the original has proved a sore trial to translators, for it is not the usual word for "sprinkling," and therefore ceremonial cleansing is not meant. One learned authority affirms, "It is simply treason against the Hebrew language to render it 'sprinkle.'" On the other hand, the late David Baron defends the A.V. rendering in a learned fashion. Bishop Chandler says: "That to sprinkle is used for to surprise, to astonish, as people are that have water thrown upon them." So we can combine both views, and say what is meant here is that nations would be startled as a man is when cold water is suddenly and altogether unexpectedly dashed upon his face.

I. THE ONE WHO STARTLES. As one closely studies this great stanza of the Golden Passional in order to answer the question-who is the one who will startle many nations?-only one reply is possible-the Servant of Jehovah, the Saviour Himself.

II. THE TIME OF THE STARTLING. In a measure, this was true of Him in the past. It has been truly remarked that "there was something amazing, portentous, sensational about Him. He set all Palestine in a ferment. He "troubled" Herod and all Jerusalem at His birth. And He continued to startle the people up to His death on the Cross. There was something electric, explosive, volcanic, in the very air while Jesus lived amongst men." And yet He never made any attempt at the sensational.

He startled the world:

1. By His Birth. He was born of a Virgin. That is to say, He had no human father. This was something altogether new. The so-called Incarnations in Pagan faiths bear no comparison whatever with the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord. It was startling to find Deity in humanity and the frail bush not consumed.

2. By His Lowliness. He was born in a cattle-shed, was brought up in a peasant's home, and not a Royal Palace. He came as a servant. Considering His lofty claims His lowly condition was startling.

3. By His Teaching. His teaching and preaching altogether differed from that of His day. "They were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught as one having authority and not as the scribes." His teaching was accompanied by miracles, and these performed without strain or effort were startling.

4. By His Death. There is a great difference and a swift and altogether startling change between Isa 52:13 and Isa 52:14. In the former we have His exaltation, in the latter, His degradation. From the picture of His enthronement we find Him confronted by a ring of shocked and horrified spectators (read Luk 23:48). Isa 52:14 must be considered in the light of a parenthesis. And that is quite fitting. In the reading of a narrative, we usually lower the voice on reading a sentence in parenthesis, and Isa 52:14 should be read in a subdued and reverent manner. Dr. C. I. Scofield declares that the literal rendering is terrible: "So marred from the form of man was His aspect that His appearance was not that of a son of man," i.e., not human, the effect of the brutalities described in Mat 26:67-68; Mat 27:27-30.

As the spectators watched Him on the Cross, many thoughts would enter their minds with startling effect.

a. The fact that One so good and useful should suffer. That, of course, was an old and familiar problem. All along in the history of the world the sufferer has been an astonishment and stumbling-block. Did not the sufferings of Jesus prove His guilt? And yet the governor declared he could find no fault in Him!

b. The fact that the powerful Jesus was now so weak. A few days before He acted and spake with power and authority. But now He seemed weak and powerless, suffering an entire eclipse.

c. The marring of His visage and form. This has been entitled "The Marvellous Marring." Observe "His visage," i.e., His face; "His form," i.e., His body. "More than other men." This must not be considered as exaggerated language, but to be taken literally. What mars? Suffering mars the visage, sometimes almost beyond the possibility of recognition. If the face and body of the Son of God were marred more than any man, it certainly was because He suffered more than any man. And we must remember that His keenest sufferings were not physical. It is perfectly certain that the accompaniments of crucifixion caused untold and unimagined bodily suffering. But the spiritual and mental agony of forsakenness, and the natural shrinking of a pure soul from contact with a world's sin, were ingredients in His cup of suffering we cannot comprehend or assess.

Of course there is a possibility of unduly magnifying the incidents and surroundings of His death. After all, the death was the all important fact. Yet are we Protestants not in danger of ignoring or minimising the incidents surrounding His death? It is by reflecting upon these incidents that we travel along one way of understanding and grasping the awful cost of our redemption.

III. THE CAUSE OF THE STARTLING. But the greatest startling is yet future. Note the value of observing Mat 27:14 as a parenthesis, and the force and power of the wee word "so." Certainly His sufferings startled, but He will be the cause of a greater startling in the future. In Mat 27:13 we have a word-picture of enthroned Deity-"Exalted. . . extolled, and be very high," are expressions confined by Isaiah to the Godhead (study Isa 6:1; Isa 57:15) so we have here something more than a mere prophecy of prosperity. What will startle His own nation, and "many nations," will be that the One who stooped so low should rise so high. What will His enemies say when they behold, seated on the Throne of the Universe, the One they nailed to the Tree. Will not our exaltation also startle those who despise us? He has promised that we should sit with Him in His Throne.

IV. THE RESULT OF THE STARTLING. "Kings shall shut their mouths at Him." Tongues will be silenced in amazement. If the silence of amazement be the first result of the startling, surely the second result will be cleansing. "He will cleanse many nations" is another rendering. The Jewish nation will be born anew in a day in consequence of their startling, and no doubt many Gentiles will share their blessing as in the Exodus of the past. The third result will be refreshing. "So shall He cause to leap or spring up for joy," as another renders this sentence. After the awakening and cleansing, will come a great joy.


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