Was Jesus the Suffering Servant Depicted in Isaiah 53?
The most comprehensive description of the Messiah is in Isaiah 53 where the prophet foretells the Messiah suffering and dying for our sins. Here are just a few portions of that messianic prophecy:
“He took our suffering on him….the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done….but he didn’t say a word. He was like a lamb being led to be killed….He was put to death….He had done nothing wrong.…He willingly gave his life….he carried away the sins of many…and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.”
So, how do Jewish rabbis today deal with the obvious parallels between Isaiah 53 and their fulfillment by Jesus of Nazereth?
Unbelievably, most Jewish people are unaware of Isaiah’s 53rd chapter because the synagogue readings of the weekly Haftarah purposely omit it, skipping from chapter 52 to 54. Most rabbis today believe Isaiah 53 refers to the suffering servant as the nation of Israel, rather than the Messiah.
Bernis was shocked to learn Isaiah 53 was always viewed as messianic until a thousand years after Christ. The 2nd century Rabbi Jonathan ben Uzziel viewed Isaiah’s prophecy as messianic. So too did The Babylonian Talmud, The Midrash Ruth Rabbah, the Zohar, and even the great Rabbi Maimonides, who wrote,
“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and, though he tarry, I will wait daily for his coming.” 
That view was prevalent among Jewish sages until the eleventh century when Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (known by the acronym Rashi) began teaching that the suffering servant was the nation of Israel, not the Messiah.
However, a careful reading of Isaiah 53 reveals that the prophecy of the suffering servant couldn’t refer to the nation of Israel since it wouldn’t make sense. For example, how could the nation die for sin?
Since the oldest copies of Isaiah were from the Masoretic Text, dated around 1000 C.E., skeptics suggested the prophecies might have been changed later by Christians to make it appear Jesus had fulfilled them.
However, in 1947, ancient Hebrew scrolls carbon dated around 200 years before Christ were discovered near the Dead Sea. Hidden for 1,900 years was a copy of Isaiah, virtually identical to the Book of Isaiah in our Bibles today. It’s clear that Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah’s 53rd chapter occurred after the prophecy was written, and couldn’t have been contrived.
Isaiah clearly reveals the Messiah would give his life for our sins. And, when John the Baptist first saw Jesus, he prophetically said of him, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
What did John mean by “Lamb of God?”
Unblemished lambs were sacrificed at Passover each year as a prophetic picture of how God would one day redeem people through the death of his Passover lamb, Jesus the Messiah. Lambs, goats and bulls were also sacrificed in the temple to atone for sin, another act that pointed to the coming sacrifice of the promised redeemer.
The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews explains how Messiah’s (Christ’s) blood is the only worthy sacrifice for our sin.
“For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 That is why, when Christ[a] came into the world, he said to God, ‘You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer.”