Marred More Than Any Man
Isaiah predicted that the world would be astonished at how the visage and form of the Messiah would be marred.
Over seven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied that the world will be astonished when the promised Messiah, who is to be exalted above all, will be marred more than any man,“Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:” (Isaiah 52:13-14).
Christ’s followers were amazed when the man they expected to be king was cruelly scourged and crucified three and a half years into his ministry. Many in this modern world still commemorate the suffering that Christ experienced at that time. Some film-makers have portrayed the event with such graphic violence, that the horrors of his beating and crucifixion have a profound emotional impact on the audience.
However, the surprise his followers experienced when they saw his marred visage and body at the time he was crucified is only a shadow of the astonishment the world will experience when the truth of Isaiah’s prophecy is revealed in its fullness. The degree to which this world has marred Christ’s visage and form is truly astounding!
What did Isaiah mean when he said Christ’s visage and form would be marred more than any other man? Was Christ’s disfigurement to be worse than that of the most extreme burns victims for example? Or was the prophet talking in terms of deliberately inflicted disfigurement? Consider some of the sadistic cruelty that has been inflicted on victims under various regimes of brutal tyranny throughout the history of this violent and bloody world. We have a shameful history of atrocities and tortures carried out in times of both war and peace; under the guise of punishment, to extract information, for revenge, or for the sheer pleasure by psychopaths. Some of the world’s most sadistic atrocities have been carried out in the name of religion.
When Christ was crucified was he literally marred more than any man in physical sense or is there a more profound meaning to Isaiah’s prophecy than first meets the eye? After he was mocked and buffeted by the Jews (Matthew 26:67-68, Mark 14:65, and Luke 22:63-65) Christ was still able to stand and answer Pilate’s questions (John 18:36). And when the Roman soldiers had scourged him (Matthew 27:27-30, Mark 15:16-20 and John 19:1-5) he was still able to walk with Simon of Cyrene who carried the stake on which he was to be crucified. According to John's account he carried the stake himself (John 19:16-17).
While Christ’s scourging was horrific and extremely painful the gospel accounts do not confirm that his physical beating was worse than any other man has suffered. So what did Isaiah mean when he said that Christ’s visage and form would be marred more than any man?
Visage and Form
Having predicted that God’s Servant, who was to be exalted above all, was going to be marred Isaiah then went on to explain how it would occur. It must be remembered that Isaiah was speaking on behalf of God in prophetical terms seven hundred years prior to Christ.
The nation of Israel had been established by God as a model to portray His plan for the salvation of mankind which He revealed when He told Abraham that through one of his descendants all families of the earth would be blessed (see Genesis 12:3 & Galatians 3:16). The Israelite culture with its temple, law and ceremonies portrayed future events in God’s plan to redeem mankind. It foreshadowed a future kingdom over which the promised Messiah will rule, their high priest himself represented the promised Messiah (Hebrews 9:11). The significance of both Christ's spiritual and physical roles have been marred, or corrupted beyond recognition.
Unrecognised by the Jews
Isaiah warned the Jews that because of their rebellious attitude toward God and corrupt form of worship (Isaiah 1:2-4) not everyone would recognise the Messiah, nor would many believe what he said, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 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.” (Isaiah 53:1-2).
He said that instead of being esteemed the promised Messiah would be despised, rejected, stricken, afflicted, wounded, bruised and beaten, “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. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 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.” (Isaiah 53:3-5). When he was alive he was despised, oppressed and afflicted, judged and imprisoned, then killed as a common criminal (verses 6-12) at the behest of his own people.
Despite his willingness to die for their transgressions he was rejected by the very nation that was established to foreshadow the future outcome of the promises that can only be fulfilled through him. Even today the Jews deny that Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the marring of God’s servant is about Christ.
Corrupted by the World
While many have condemned the Jews for what they did, the rest of the world is just as guilty because even in death Christ’s image and message have continued to be corrupted by the very people who now claim to be his followers – the so-called ‘Christian’ community. Some worship him as a baby, others worship his mother instead and most portray him as a weak and sickly, effeminate man. His gospel of the Kingdom of God has been watered down as a vague, ethereal kingdom that exists in the minds of men. His teachings have been relegated to a series of unrelated, quaint ‘Bible stories’ for children. His law has been rejected and to this day, some two thousand years later, his name is widely used as a profanity. The so-called ‘Christians’ of this world have a form of religion but deny the power thereof. Will Christ find faith when he returns (Luke 18:8)? His image and message have been corrupted to the extent that he is the most maligned, humiliated, vilified and misrepresented man in the entire history of this planet.
Significance of the Prophecy
Many do not realise the significance of Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” (Isaiah 52:13-15). When he shall ‘sprinkle many nations’ refers to the time when the exalted Christ, in whom all nations of the world are to be blessed, returns at the end of this age to reveal the truth about God’s plan of salvation and His Kingdom. The world will be dumbfounded at how much the image and form of the Christ they thought they knew had been marred.
While Christ’s visage and form were marred during the beating and scourging, the physical injuries did not seem to fulfil the prophet’s prediction that he would be marred more than any man. However, when considering how Christ has subsequently been portrayed and his message corrupted beyond all recognition, the profound meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy becomes apparent. No man has ever suffered such prolonged, undeserved humiliation and degrading treatment as Christ has had to endure.
The world will be astounded at how much they have marred the visage and form of Jesus Christ. He has truly been marred more than any man.