Isaiah 53 contains a prophecy of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Isaiah taught that the Savior would be despised and rejected, smitten and afflicted; that He would carry our sorrows; and that He would be wounded for our transgressions.
Before class, write the following question on the board: When might someone be tempted to say, “No one understands what I am going through”? Ask students to respond to this question.
Invite students as they study Isaiah 53 to look for truths that can help them when they experience difficulties and when they feel that no one understands their thoughts, feelings, or challenges.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 53:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that describe the difficulties Isaiah prophesied Jesus Christ would experience during His life, including the agonizing trials connected with His atoning sacrifice. (You may want to remind students that Isaiah 53:3–5 is a scripture mastery passage.)
What words or phrases describe the difficulties Jesus Christ experienced during His life?
As students respond to the preceding question, ask questions such as the following to help deepen their understanding of the words or phrases they mention:
What might it mean that Jesus Christ grew up “as a root out of a dry ground”? (Isaiah 53:2). (One interpretation of the phrase “dry ground” is that it refers to the spiritual drought or apostasy that existed in Jesus’s day, which had resulted from the wickedness of Jewish leaders and their followers [see 2 Nephi 10:3–5].)
What do you think it means that “he hath no form nor comeliness; and … there is no beauty that we should desire him”? (Isaiah 53:2).
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith, who explained what it means that Jesus had “no beauty that we should desire him”:
“There was nothing about [Jesus] to cause people to single him out. In appearance he was like men; and so it is expressed here by the prophet that he had no form or comeliness, that is, he was not so distinctive, so different from others that people would recognize him as the Son of God. He appeared as a mortal man” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:23).
In what ways was Jesus Christ “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3) during His life? (You might remind students that Jesus Christ was rejected by His own people and was spat upon, smitten, scourged [or whipped], and mocked during His trials and Crucifixion [see Matthew 26:67–68; 27:22–43].)
According to verse 4, whose griefs and sorrows did Jesus Christ bear? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: Jesus Christ bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.)
Why is it important to know that the Savior has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, ‘No one knows what it is like. No one understands.’ But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice … , He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power” (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 90).
Ask students to ponder when they have felt the Savior comfort or strengthen them or help carry their griefs and sorrows. Invite a few of them to share their experiences with the class. (Remind students that they should not share any experiences that are too sacred or private.) You may also want to share an experience.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 53:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else Jesus Christ suffered for us.
In addition to our griefs and sorrows, what else did Jesus Christ suffer for us?
Display the picture Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Gospel Art Book , no. 56; see also LDS.org). Explain that for every transgression or sin we commit, there is “a punishment affixed” (Alma 42:18). This punishment includes guilt, pain, misery, and separation from God (see 2 Nephi 9:7–9). The phrase “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” in Isaiah 53:5 means that Jesus Christ suffered the punishment (the penalty) for our sins so we could experience forgiveness and peace. The phrase “with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5) means that because of Jesus Christ’s suffering, we can be healed from the wounds of our sins and the consequences of the Fall of Adam and Eve, including spiritual and physical death.
How would you summarize Isaiah’s teachings in verse 5? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following doctrine: Jesus Christ suffered for the transgressions and iniquities of all so that we can be forgiven and healed. Using students’ words, write this doctrine on the board.)
To help students better understand the extent of the Savior’s suffering, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency:
“No man knows the full weight of what our Savior bore, but by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know something of the supernal gift He gave us. …
“He suffered so much pain, ‘indescribable anguish,’ and ‘overpowering torture’ [John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement (1882), 150] for our sake. His profound suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He took upon Himself all the sins of all other mortals, caused Him ‘to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit’ [D&C 19:18]. …
“Our Redeemer took upon Himself all the sins, pains, infirmities, and sicknesses of all who have ever lived and will ever live. No one has ever suffered in any degree what He did” (“The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 19).
To help students understand the truth and importance of the doctrine they identified, ask them to reread Isaiah 53:5–6 silently and to substitute their names for the words our, we, and us.
What feelings do you have for the Savior as you consider that He suffered the penalty for your sins?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Isaiah 53:7–12. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that help us further understand what Jesus Christ experienced as part of His Atonement.
What else did the Savior experience as part of His Atonement?
According to verse 10, whom did Jesus Christ see as He accomplished the Atonement?
Invite students to share their testimonies of the Savior with the class if they are willing to do so. You may want to add your testimony as well. Invite students to seek to receive the blessings of the Atonement in their lives.
Ask students: What is the difference between a hunter and a fisher and the amount of food they can provide? Why does the Lord need hunters today? Ask students if they have ever wondered about their existence before they were born. What did God know about us before we came to earth? Explain that in their study of Isaiah 59–Jeremiah 33, they will learn truths about their premortal existence and the important tasks the Lord wants them to accomplish in this life.