Right Side Up

There are so many descriptives for Jesus in the Bible – Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace, high priest, light of the world… 

But the description from Isaiah 53:2 is the one that’s has been going round and round in my head lately: 

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 

The Message puts it this way: 

There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.  

And the Easy-to-Read Version says: 

There was nothing special or impressive about the way he looked, nothing we could see that would cause us to like him.  

Having recently stepped into the field of marketing, I can confidently say this verse is basically a Marketing Dept’s worst nightmare.

I mean, really? Can you imagine receiving a product brief that says there’s nothing attractive, special, impressive or even likeable about the product? And not in a “false-humility” or “beautiful-ugly” kind of way, but a “no one wants to touch this with a 10-ft pole” kind of way according to the rest of the chapter.   

That item would be dead in the water. Finished before it even started, joining the dusty pile of rejects that no one’s ever going to hear about.  

Because in the world we live in, it’s all about attracting, impressing, liking. The prettier/ shinier/ stronger/ faster/ smarter/ richer/ funnier the better. These are the things that lead to success. So we’re told. So we believe.  

Any watchers of Stranger Things out there? Sometimes I think we’re living in the Upside Down right now. Super quick recap for the uninitiated – the Upside Down is an alternate dimension that literally lies underneath reality, an inverted carbon copy of our world ruled by evil. Whereas reality is light-filled, the Upside Down is darkness. And of course, there’s an epic battle going on to stop the Upside Down from taking over reality.  

Back to our own reality, the “prettier/ stronger/ smarter/ richer trumps all” reality. Isn’t that just a twisted, inverted, upside-down version of God’s reality? Let’s go back to Isaiah 53:2, this time from The Living Bible:  

In God’s eyes[a] he was like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. But in our eyes there was no attractiveness at all, nothing to make us want him.  

Other versions translate “In God’s eyes” to “Before God” (as in “In front of”). In God’s eyes / Before God, strength is found in weakness, beauty in the unseen. The penniless can be rich beyond measure, and the humble exalted above all. 

God’s viewpoint versus our own. It’s all upside down from what the world tells us. The marketing nightmare that should have been consigned to historical oblivion somehow became a world-wide phenomenon that’s still “selling” to millions around the world even two millennia later.   

If you’ve time, take a moment to read chapter 53 in its entirety. This is The Voice translation and offers a starkly poetic and personal version of the Gospel that pulls no punches in describing God’s plan to get us “right side up”. 

Indeed, who would ever believe it? 
    Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?  
    Who has witnessed the awesome power and plan of the Eternal in action? 
2 Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. 
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence— 
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention. 
3 So he was despised and forsaken by men, 
    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. 
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way; 
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him. 
4 Yet it was our suffering he carried, 
    our pain[c]and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. 
We just figured that God had rejected him, 
    that God was the reason he hurt so badly. 
5 But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. 
    Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. 
He endured the breaking that made us whole. 
    The injuries he suffered became our healing. 
6 We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep, 
    scattered by our aimless striving and endless pursuits; 
The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer, 
    the sins of us all. 

7 And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence. 
    Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it. 
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered, 
    he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly. 
8 Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away. 
    From this generation, who was there to complain? 
Who was there to cry “Foul”? 
    He was, after all, cut off from the land of the living, 
Smacked and struck, not on his account, 
    because of how my people (my people!) 
Disregarded the lines between right and wrong. 
    They snuffed out his life.  
9 And when he was dead, he was buried with the disgraced 
    in borrowed space (among the rich), 
Even though he did no wrong by word or deed.  

10 Yet the Eternal One planned to crush him all along, 
    to bring him to grief, this innocent servant of God. 
When he puts his life in sin’s dark place, in the pit of wrongdoing, 
    this servant of God will see his children and have his days prolonged. 
For in His servant’s hand, the Eternal’s deepest desire will come to pass and flourish. 
11 As a result of the trials and troubles that wrack his soul, 
    God’s servant will see light and be content 
Because He knows, really understands, what it’s about; as God says, 
    “My just servant will justify countless others by taking on their punishment and bearing it away
12 Because he exposed his very self— 
    laid bare his soul to the vicious grasping of death— 
And was counted among the worst, I will count him among the best. 
    I will allot this one, My servant, a share in all that is of any value, 
Because he took on himself the sin of many 
    and acted on behalf of those who broke My law.” 

Theme photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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