A Man Acquainted with Grief
The prophetic book of Isaiah has been called by man, "The Gospel According to Isaiah." Perhaps such is a fitting name when we realize how much of the book is dedicated to prophecies regarding the gospel and Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth is the greatest and most important man to have ever walked on this earth. He was and is "a teacher come from God;" the "bread of life;" and the "light of the world" (Jn. 3: 2; 6: 51; 8: 12). Moreover, Jesus is "the Son of God" and "King of Israel" (Jn. 1: 49). It may appear, then, to be paradoxical that the man who even had nature at his command was a "man of sorrows, despised, rejected of men, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53: 3). Please consider the first five verses of Isaiah 53:
"1: Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2: For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Jesus experienced hardships in life. Jesus said thus to a would be disciple: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matt. 8: 20). Indeed, Jesus lived a cruel and demanding life (Lk. 8: 1-3). The Son of God was born in a stable and cradled in a manger (Lk. 2: 8 ff.). Paul wrote of Jesus as follows: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8: 9).
Jesus suffered grief from his family. Jesus' family often did not understand him. "For neither did his brethren believe in him," we are told (Jn. 7: 5). In fact, Jesus' own brothers in the flesh rejected Jesus while he was in the flesh (Mk. 6: 4). We only have glimpses provided regarding Jesus and his family, but it is evident there was sorrow on Jesus' part regarding his family. Jesus asked his parents when they did not understand his behavior, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Lk. 2: 49). Jesus, though, always placed his heavenly Father above his family and domestic matters (see Matt. 10: 36-39).
Jesus had disappointment and sorrow from his friends. Jesus' closest companions often brought him grief. There were misunderstandings on the part of the twelve. Peter offered resistance when he said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (Jn. 13: 8). There appears to have been much complaining and strife among the twelve that must have been a source of annoyance to Jesus (cp. Matt. 18: 1 ff.). The disciples were so slow in receiving and applying the truths Jesus taught them (Matt. 20: 20 ff.). Toward the end of Jesus' life, we read one of the saddest notes in scripture: "Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Matt. 26: 56).
Jesus encountered grief from doing good. Jesus lived a sinless life, in complete conformity with the Law of Moses (Gal. 4: 4; Heb. 4: 15). John recorded Jesus' healing of a physically afflicted man (Jn. 5: 1-9). Jesus violated no laws and rendered no harm to anyone. However, some of the Jews were inflamed. "And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day," we are informed (vs. 16). Observe a sample of the dialogue that occurred between Jesus and the Jews (note their accusing, fault-finding disposition regarding one who only sought to do good and concerning whom they could find no real fault):
"31: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33: They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34: Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35: And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36: If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. 37: I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38: I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. 39: They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40: But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 41: Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. 42: Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43: Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44: Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45: And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46: Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47: He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 48: Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49: Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me" (Jn. 8).
Jesus had sorrow from the temptations he faced. Jesus' temptations were real and covered the whole range of the devil's appeal to man. There was the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (Matt. 4: 1-11). The Hebrew writer wrote of Jesus and temptation thus, "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4: 15). We must remember that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh (Matt. 1: 23). Imagine the sorrow and grief Jesus, God incarnate, must have experienced at the indignity of temptation!
Jesus ultimately experienced grief in death. Jesus did not simply die as all men die. Jesus "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phili. 2: 8). Paul wrote of Jesus, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin " (2 Cor. 5: 21). Let us revisit Isaiah's prophecy of Jesus:
"5: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7: He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8: He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9: And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53: 5-10, a related article to read is, "The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness").
In closing, regarding Jesus and his grief there are many attendant lessons for us to learn. Based on Jesus' humble and deprived life, we should be willing to sacrifice and we should always put God over family and friends (Rom. 12: 1, 2; Lk. 12: 49-53). We should be willing to be persecuted for being godly (2 Tim. 3: 12), and experience sorrow for temptation rather than pleasure, even as Jesus did. We should be desirous of undergoing spiritual death and be raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6: 1 ff.). We are buried with Christ in baptism, according to Paul (Rom. 6: 3, 4). Let us never forget that Jesus was a man acquainted with grief so that you and I can have forgiveness of our sins and the hope of heaven (Matt. 26: 28, Acts 2: 38; I Jn. 1: 7 ff.).