Why is Jesus referred to as a man of sorrows in Isaiah 53:3?

man of sorrows
Question: "Why is Jesus referred to as a man of sorrows in Isaiah 53:3?"

Answer:
The King James Version and New King James use the word sorrows in Isaiah 53:3 in identifying the Messiah as “a man of sorrows.” The NIV translates the word as “suffering,” as does the ESV, which also notes an alternate translation could be “pains.” Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is the climactic fourth of the Servant Songs and is often referred to as the “Song of the Suffering Servant.” If you simply read these verses carefully, you will note how much pain, suffering, and sorrow that Jesus, the Suffering Servant, actually endures (italics added for emphasis):

“See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—

so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

“Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

“He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Jesus is called “a man of sorrows” because of how much suffering He had to endure. He suffered first by leaving the glories of heaven and entering the human race as a man. Then He suffered all the things that humanity suffers, and then finally He suffered the wrath of God as the sin-bearer. Such suffering must have been all the more acute for Him, given His perfect nature. Who of us could ever understand the depths of what His righteous spirit suffered as He lived among fallen humanity?

Although He is called “a man of sorrows,” Jesus was not a morose, doleful person. He did endure times of sadness, but He could rejoice in His sufferings as He focused on the final outcome. Jesus is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus endured many pains, hardships, sufferings, and sorrows, but He kept His eyes on the final joy of completing God’s purpose and redeeming His lost sheep.

The old hymn by Philip Bliss is appropriate to quote here:

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood—
Sealed my pardon with His blood:
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished,” was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high:
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! what a Savior!


It was Jesus’ willingness to endure suffering and sorrow in a world of suffering and sorrow that ultimately rescues all who trust in Him from the very presence of any suffering and sorrow. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible

More insights from your Bible study - Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!
Related Topics:

What are the four Servant Songs in Isaiah?

Where does the Old Testament mention Christ?

If His name was Yeshua, why do we call Him Jesus?

What does it mean that Jesus is the son of David?

Why wasn't Jesus named Immanuel?

Return to:

Questions about Isaiah

Return to:

GotQuestions.org Home



Why is Jesus referred to as a man of sorrows in Isaiah 53:3?

Subscribe to our Question of the Week

Get our Questions of the Week delivered right to your inbox!