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 associated with His atoning sacrifice.
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” (verse 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 (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us” (“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 verse 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” (verse 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:
“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 … caused Him ‘to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit’ [D&C 19:18]. …
“… 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. This time, invite them to study the verses silently and 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? Why?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Isaiah 53:7–11. 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?
You may want to explain that the phrase “cut off out of the land of the living” in verse 8 refers to Jesus Christ’s death. The phrase “it pleased the Lord to bruise him” in verse 10 means that Heavenly Father was pleased that Jesus Christ willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice for others’ sins (see 3 Nephi 11:7, 11; John 3:16).
According to Isaiah 53:10, whom did Jesus Christ see as He accomplished the Atonement?
Invite a student to read Isaiah 53:12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Isaiah said Jesus Christ would receive as a result of accomplishing the Atonement.
What would Jesus Christ receive as a result of accomplishing the Atonement? (Explain that “a portion” and “spoil” refer to the inheritance of eternal life that Jesus Christ has received from Heavenly Father.)
With whom will Jesus Christ share His inheritance? (Those who are “strong,” meaning those who are obedient to the commandments and made perfect through His Atonement; see D&C 76:69.)
Remind students that to receive the full blessings of the Savior’s Atonement, we must exercise faith in Him, repent, receive the ordinances of the gospel, and keep our covenants. If we do not repent, then we must suffer and pay the penalty for our own sins (see D&C 19:16–19).
Ask students to reflect on the truths discussed in this lesson. You may want to invite them to write their testimonies of Jesus Christ and His Atonement in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Invite students to share their testimonies of the Savior with the class if they are willing to do so.
Encourage students to ponder what they are currently doing and what else they can do to receive the blessings of the Atonement. Invite them to set a personal goal to do all they can to qualify to receive these blessings.
Note: The following teaching idea could be used as a part of this lesson or on another day when you have extra time in class.
Invite students to carry the scripture mastery card for Isaiah 53:3–5 with them throughout the day. (Or they could write the passage on a piece of paper.) Invite students to review these verses throughout the day to help them remember the Savior’s sacrifice for them and to encourage them to make righteous choices.