Isaiah 53:11 expresses more clearly than any other in the poem the transition from suffering to glory of the Servant. Cf Lk 24:26-27; “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 1 Pet 1:11 ‘…the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.’
Lit. ‘After the suffering of his soul he will see and be satisfied.’ Cf Psa 17:15, ‘And I–in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.’
1. HE WILL SUFFER. ‘Suffering’ – signifies hard labour, or painful exertion. It refers to the entire work of toil and suffering of the Lord, which were included in his offering of his soul for sin, and which was consumated when he was ‘cut off out of the land of the living.’
How was this prediction of suffering fulfilled? Listen to the words of Jesus: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?” Jn 12:27; “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Mt 26:39; “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mt 27:46. Remember also his sweat, like “great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Lk 22:44.
He suffered: (a) mentally, for they accused him of blasphemy against God and sedition against Caesar, Lk 23:2. They mocked him as a king, Mt 27:29; and as a prophet, Mt 27:39,42. (b) physically, for he was wearied and wounded, and his senses were assailed by the sight and smell of Golgotha, the place of death, by the taste of the vinegar and the gall, and by the noise of angry clamour. But it is especially ‘the suffering of his soul’ which is in view here, for he suffered, (c) spiritually. He was deserted by God, Mt 27:46, that is, he was severed from that loving, and joyful, and comforting communion with his Father which he had known since before the world began. Only the One who had enjoyed such fellowship in the presence of his Father, could know the greatness of the loss of that communion.
But this soul-suffering was not only negative and privative. It was also positive and penal. He stood in the sinner’s stead, and bore the crushing weight of our sin, and this multiplied his sufferings to an unthinkable degree., Mt 26:38; Mar 14:33; Heb 5:7. Many martyrs have gone to their death kissing the stake, and singing praises to God. But Christ’s sufferings were to a large extent due to an aweful apprehension of burden of God’s wrath, willingly borne, Gal 3:13, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”‘
Learn then, (a) how sinful sin must be, (b) how terrible God’s wrath must be against that sin, (c) how great is our obligation to Christ, (d) how wholeheartedly we should follow Christ, and suffer if needs be on his behalf.
2. HE WILL SEE. When the Son of God agreed to leave his heavenly throne and come and suffer and die, he did not do so blindly. He knew what the cost would be. And yet he looked forward to the temptations of the wilderness, the agonies of the garden, the curse of the cross, the scourging of his body, and the suffering of his soul, and said, I am willing to pay that price. Why? -because he saw, not only the suffering, but also the effects of that suffering. Heb 12:2 ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’
He will see – what? He will see the results that his death was intended to achieve. He will see that he did not die in vain. He will see grace triumphant, the works of the devil destroyed, the kingdom of God established among men, an innumerable multitude made holy and happy, the power of God in his own resurrection from the dead, the obtaining for himself the throne of the universe. He will see the Holy Spirit poured out, thousands converted in a single day, many of them his murderers, the Gospel preached throughout the world, churches established, saints built up. He will see his kingdom established, and idolatry, superstition, paganism, swept away; immorality, slavery, anarchy, put down for ever. He will see his enemies made his footstool; every one of his sheep safely enfolded in heaven, his church fully gathered, with not one missing, spotless and holy, graves emptied at the resurrection, all nations stand before him at the judgement, a new heavens and a new earth, of which he is the Creator, every creature bowing before the throne of his Father and himself, singing ceaseless praises. And all of this, because of the suffering of his soul. Cf Jn 16:21; Heb 2:10. If there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, Lk 15:7, how much more in the heart of the Saviour himself?
But, in a very special way, you are Christ’s reward. You are what made all of this suffering worth while for him. Christian believers are ‘given’ by the Father to the Son, Jn 17:6, by way of reward, Psa 2:8, and solemn charge, Jn 6:37f. Christ will lose no part of his reward or charge, Heb 2:13. He will see his offspring, Isa 53:10. Rev 7:9,10 ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”‘
And Jesus is even now reaping the rewards of his hard-won victory. Heb 2:8-10, ‘Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.’
‘He shall with the prospect of his sufferings have a prospect of the fruit, and he shall be satisfied with the bargain’ (Henry).
3. HE WILL BE SATISFIED. No wonder there is added, ‘and be satisfied’, that is, ‘filled, abundantly supplied’ (Alexander). He brings happiness to all around him, and upon this he feeds himself. Next to the delight he takes in his Father, is that which he takes in coming into the world and recovering a people to himself. This was his great desire, Lk 12:15,50, and his great labour, Jn 16:21. It was his meat to do his Father’s will, even in the midst of his suffering, Jn 4:34. How much more, when, as the grand reservoir of divine benefits, he gives joy to the hosts of the angels and the multitudes of the redeemed! How great must be the final glory which results from the suffering of the Messiah’s soul! It is great enough to satisfy his mighty soul, his mighty mind, his large heart. Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary left no regrets. He does not grudge the price he paid. Looking back on all he has endured, and forward to all that it is to accomplish, he is satisifed with the sight. Let us follow Christ in making it our meat and drink to delight in doing the Father’s will, and in serving the interests of his kingdom; to serve, and if need be suffer, in his cause, knowing that our afflictions will be light and momentary, but our joys eternal, because of this promise: ‘After the suffering of his soul, he will see, and be satisfied.’
‘This is Christ’s harvest, when he shall reap the fruit of his labours; and it will not repent him concerning his sufferings, but he will rejoice over his purchased inheritance, and his people will rejoice in him.’ Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, 39.