The Exaltation of Christ

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“Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high” (KJV, Is. 52:13).


Frequently God draws attention to what He is going to say through the word “behold.” Isaiah 52:13 marks the beginning of a passage that is commonly referred to as the suffering servant. Jesus is displayed through the prophetic writings of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, possibly the most detailed explanation of the Gospel found in the Old Testament. Therefore, it is fitting that God would tell the reader to behold what He is about to reveal.

The word behold carries the meaning of seeing. As it relates to the prophetic utterances of God, it is clear that God is revealing something through His prophet, which He desires for the reader to see. However, on the other hand, the reader must have eyes to see.

The word behold is used many times in the book of Isaiah, but the reader must be aware of Isaiah’s ministry. In Isaiah chapter 6, Isaiah was called to the ministry. In the same year King Uzziah died, God gave Isaiah a vision. The vision was of the Lord sitting upon His throne, and the train of God’s robe filled the temple. Isaiah saw the Seraphim flying around God and covering their eyes and feet. They covered their eyes so they would not gaze upon the holiness of God. They covered their feet so they would not step upon holy ground. Then, with their two remaining wings, they flew around the Lord and served Him.

Isaiah was convicted of his sin in the presence of God and received forgiveness from the Lord. Then the Bible says, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Is. 6:8). Thus, God desired to send Isaiah as His prophet to preach to the people of Israel. But what happened next would never have been assumed apart from God’s revelation.

God says to Isaiah, “…Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Is. 6:9-10). So here we read that Isaiah was called to a ministry where people would not properly see what was revealed in his message.

While God desired His people to behold His message, the reality is that their hearts had grown calloused. Not only that, but the only hope for the blind to see was if God gave them sight.

“my servant”

God then gives His message through the prophet Isaiah. First, we read of God’s telling of Jesus as His Servant. The servanthood of Christ can be seen throughout the New Testament. We read of Jesus saying, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus has set the tone for the Christian to follow. He came as a Servant rather than to be served.

Elsewhere Jesus said, “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27). The ways of Jesus are both countercultural and counterintuitive. Nevertheless, the Word of God is timeless, and the reality of it can be seen in the ways of Christ when contrasted with the world.

For instance, during the days of Christ and in the modern era, the servant would not be seen as occupying a more significant position. However, Jesus was not saying that the servant is not greater. He merely said that the servant is not more significant in the world’s eyes. Jesus was a Servant, so the servant’s position must be seen as the most excellent position for the Christian.

Jesus came to the earth with the expressed purpose of being a Servant. Frequently the Bible tells us that Jesus came down to do the will of the Father, which is the essence of servanthood. Isaiah tells us that Jesus would be the Servant of God. Later we read Jesus’ words describing the same story. Finally, the book of Philippians tells us of the humility of Christ in that Jesus humbled himself and became a servant unto His death on the cross.

Jesus lived as a Servant and died as a Servant.

“shall deal prudently”

The book of Isaiah informs the reader that Christ would be not only a Servant but also a wise Servant. The wisdom of Christ cannot be overstated. Isaiah is filled with prophetic references concerning Jesus Christ, and in one of them, it says, “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding…” (Is. 11:2). Jesus Christ was filled with the Spirit without measure. He was wise in all His dealings while on the earth.

Many people claim to have wisdom and knowledge, but only what is rooted in Christ can truly bear the honor of being called wisdom. Paul tells us, “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Not only that, but Paul says elsewhere of Jesus, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Not some wisdom, not most wisdom, but all the treasures of wisdom are hidden in Christ. Simply put, there is no wisdom to be had apart from that which is in Christ Jesus.

“he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high”

Jesus Christ came as a wise Servant to do the Father’s will. As a result, Jesus was exalted. But what was the path to Jesus’ exaltation? The book of John says that Jesus’ exaltation was like the lifting up of the bronze serpent. When Jesus spoke in this manner, He spoke of His crucifixion and subsequent death on the cross, similar to when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness.

Throughout the book of John, Jesus frequently said that His time had not yet come. For instance, when Jesus was asked to turn water into wine, He said His time had not yet come in response to the request. Later some of the Jews sought to arrest Jesus, but we read that they could not because Jesus’ hour had not yet come. Finally, in John 12:23 and 17:1, the Bible tells us that Jesus’ hour had come. It was the hour of His exaltation, marked by Jesus being high and lifted up on the cross.

The road to exaltation was paved with humility. Jesus did not cling to His heavenly throne and equality with the Father. Instead, we are told in Hebrews that Jesus humbled Himself and became lower than the angels.

Isaiah tells the reader of the fall of Satan. Satan looked upon the throne of God and desired to set a throne above God’s. Thus, Satan sought to exalt himself, and as a result, his pride brought about his fall. However, when one looks upon Christ and His exaltation, he will see a humble Savior.

Christ was not exalted because He sought exaltation. Christ was exalted because He submitted to the Father’s will as a selfless servant. Who better to sit on the throne than Jesus? He deserves to be exalted and is the only One Who does in reality.

Paul tells us that Jesus came to the earth, humbled Himself, took on flesh, gave up His lofty position, became a Servant, and was obedient to the point of death. In all that Jesus did, He honored the Father through sacrificial submission. Now He is exalted. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the King of kings.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for sending Christ to the earth. Thank You for blessing me with an extraordinary Savior. I do not deserve the love of Christ, but I have it nonetheless. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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