Tuesdays are for the Old Testament
Luther, Martin, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, translated by Herbert J.A. Bowman) Luther’s Works, Vol. 17, Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66.St. Louis: Concordia, 1972. Logos Electronic Edition.
“Isaiah Chapter 53” pp. 219-232.
The commentary on Isaiah 53 has numerous signs that these are the notes of students rather than an actual transcript. For instance, at several points there is a note “another paragraph.” Chapter 53 begins with the question. “Who has believed?” Luther applies the message of this portion of Isaiah to Jesus. He then notes that throughout the New Testament there was a widespread rejection of Jesus, especially among the Jews. Believing of Jesus, however, “is brought about solely by the Holy Spirit and the Word. To believe that Christ, so exceedingly disgraced and dying between robbers, is the Savior - this no reason can believe” ((LW 17, 219). Jesus, however, in the words of verses 2 and following, grew before God, was unremarkable in his appearance, and was rejected.
Verse 4 points us to the reason for Christ’s suffering. It was to carry our grief and sorrow (LW 17, 221). All the work of Christ was to bring salvation, not by our work, but by his work. On the contrary, Christ is rejected. “In the eyes of the world and of the flesh Christ does not suffer for us, since He seemed to have deserved it Himself. This is what the prophet says here too, that He was judged guilty in the eyes of the world” (LW 17, 221). Yet in verse 5 Jesus is described as the one who suffered for our sin, not for his own (LW 17, 222). For this reason, Luther says, we seek to see our sin on Christ. It does not belong to us, but to him (LW 17, 223). Luther acknowledges that some Christians will feel their sin in different ways than others. Some will also have greater or lesser perception of the mercy of God. Yet these feelings are not our confidence. Our confidence is in Christ. “Hence a Christian man must be especially vexted in his conscience and heart by Satan, and yet he must remain in the Word and not seek peace anywhere else than in Christ. We must not make a log or a rock out of the Christian as one who does nt feel sin in himself. This is the claim of the exceedingly spiritual Enthusiasts” (LW 17, 224). The peace we receive comes through Jesus, not through our feelings. In contrast to Christ’s work, verse 6 confesses that humans have gone astray. Our own ideas and works are not going to be effective. They may seem right to us but they will notreach the actual goal of reconciliation with God (LW 17, 225).
Finally, in verses 8 and following, Jesus is taken away. Luther says he is taken away from opporession and judgement (DS observes this is an acceptable dative case usage) (LW 17, 227). He receves resurrection, therefore he endures forever. The motion in verses 8 and 9 are from the land of the living through death and the grave. It is clear from verses 9 and 10 that this individual, who Luther affirms to be Christ, was without guilt. However, he is buried as an ungodly person. Luther sees this as a clear picture of Christ’s replacing us in death (LW 17, 228). Knowledge and understanding of this idea, though, is not easily accepted. For this reason, Luther says, a “Christian cannot arrive at this knowledge by means of any laws, either moral or civil, but he must ascend to heaven by means of the Gospel” (LW 17, 229). With the knowledge of the Gospel, then, the Christian finds that Christ has borne his sins and taken them away. This is the office of Christ, the sin bearer (LW 17, 231).