Meditations On The Messiah - The Shoulders of The Messiah

by Ray Hawkins


"How broad are your shoulders?" This may not be a question referring to your physical being, but to your emotional and spiritual capacity, for there are times without number when each of us needs to lean on the 'shoulder' of another. Hopefully, that person will not let us fall.

In the magnificent message of Isaiah we gain an insight into the 'shoulder power' of the Messiah. We read: "Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted" (53:4). Within the description which is sometimes gory as well as graphic, there is the awareness of the suffering servant's willingness to stoop to care. He was the despised, the disfigured Man of Sorrows and yet He took up our infirmities. This must surely leave our minds gasping at such grace, for in His predicament it would have been so easy to look the other way when noticing our crisis and need. He could have left us to struggle alone, and who would have blamed Him?

But love never looks the other way. It was love that prevented self-pity. It was love that reached out to embrace the afflicted.

A question may arise within our minds as we read this Scripture as to how it would be possible for anyone to carry our weaknesses, our sorrows, our transgressions and iniquities, our punishment. How could anyone do all this and not become resentful or crushed or consumed by the wrath of God?

Such a miracle is beyond the descendants of Adam, for all are disfigured by sin and debilitated by the walk through the valley of death. There is not one with enough strength to 'shoulder' his or her own sin and punishment, let alone embrace someone else's.

This is why the Messiah is unveiled by Isaiah in short but definitive messages. He wants you and me to see the grandeur of God expressed in the various roles and titles of the Promised One, for if we were to have all the truth bursting upon our consciousness without relief we could cry in the agony of ecstasy, "I am undone!"

Isaiah calls Him Emmanuel, born of a virgin (7:14) and one who has shoulders strong enough to carry the government of the world (9:6). The titles that cascade from his pen are: "Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (9:6). He is linked to the royal house of Judah as the Promised One who should rule (11:1-5); the Spirit of the Most High is His companion and authority (61:1ff).

The same prophet also reveals the most crucial test for the character and calling of the Messiah. He is to take on the full onslaught of national and individual unbelief and rejection against God, and make it His own. He is to envelop the sin nature passed on from Adam to us all, and to render it up for death. All this He had to achieve without bitterness, knowing that judgement would then fall on Himself (53:6,8).

What Isaiah saw was the Child that was born to rule becoming not simply the suffering servant, but the embodiment of the Passover Lamb. Here is substitution in stark reality. Here is humanity's failure answered by the 'shoulders' of the Eternal. Here is the worst (and best) creation can throw at God, caught, consumed and then transformed by the Best that Heaven has to offer.

It is this unblemished One who has the power, authority and love to carry our infirmities and failings. But if He carried them, only to be crushed by the judgement of God and the grave, then it would be a beautiful but meaningless exercise, for the final enemy, Death, would still have had the last word.

How wonderful that Isaiah beholds the Messiah prevailing by resurrection: He will SEE His offspring and that the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand; He will SEE and be satisfied; He will enjoy the spoils of victory, something impossible for a corpse! Only a conqueror has that authority and capacity. That is the Messiah.

My desire, for myself and for you, is that together we may discover the wonder of leaning upon the 'shoulders' of the Messiah, there to rejoice in the scars of His suffering which He bore for each of us; there to enjoy the conquest over life and death that He imparts to all who by faith lean on Him.