All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6—NIV)

The death of Jesus Christ is unique in all of history. Very few among mortals chose to die for a cause. Most noble is the death of a man so that another may live a while longer. Only one Yeoman in all of history has died as a substitute so that a host of others may be released to live for eternity. Verse 6 teaches that Jesus was no mere martyr.

The vicarious (substitutionary) death of Jesus Christ is professed by Isaiah to be a cure (53:4) for a man’s sin as Christ bears a man’s sin away; to be a tremendous cost (53:5) to our Savior as He took a man’s place and received the just punishment meted out by a holy God, and to be an action taken for a most noble cause (53:6) so that Jesus Christ becomes the shepherd of the sheep who once were hopelessly lost and now are found.

The measure of His substitutionary work is breathtakingly personal. Notice the first two words: "all we." There is a definitive and identifiable group of people enumerated in those two words. Why would we expect the sacrificial work of Christ to be any different? After all, He did say from the cross, "It is finished!" He did not die to purchase a "possible" salvation; He died to provide actual salvation. This "all we" group includes only those who come to an inescapable conclusion—that we are lost sheep ridden with sin. (Tuck that "all we" group away in your mind for we will pick it up again in a few moments.)

The sheep-like lostness is true for the simple reason that the sheep have no shepherd to "shepherd" them through life. The shepherd leads to pleasant pastures, the shepherd leads to the protected place to sleep, the shepherd knowingly tends to the sheep and meets their needs, the shepherd protects the sheep from the enemies which lurk seeking to take advantage of the stray, and the good shepherd will hazard his life for his sheep.

The original words teach that we all had "turned astray." It is a self-chosen path leading with every step to certain destruction. It is a path which, as the second phrase of the verse teaches, all pursue without exception, every single one. Look closely at the wandering path of each sheep and you see a sheep’s life without a shepherd. It is solitary, forebodingly unknown, quite likely miserable, and it is forlornly forsaken for it has only one eventual destination. There is no hope for a sheep without a shepherd.

The last phrase of the verse proclaims the work of the Good Shepherd, the great cause of Jesus Christ. "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity" is not just bearing a burden and carrying a load. The Hebrew language states, "The Lord has made to rush upon Him the iniquity" (to hit, to strike violently). Jesus is not only a possible "sin offering," but He was made sin for us, in our behalf (He became our substitute) and, in laying down His life for the sheep, He becomes the Good shepherd. (In John 10:11 Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.") Though Jesus was sinless, God treated Him as if He had committed every single sin of those who were His lost sheep. The Innocent One was punished as if He were guilty so that the guilty ones might be eternally blessed as if they were innocent.

Remember that "all we" from the beginning of the verse? Here it is again at the end of the verse ("us all"). Those shepherdless sheep are now sheep with a shepherd; their path is changed to a certain destination with the Good Shepherd leading them along!

Do you have the Good Shepherd? How do you know for sure you are included in Jesus’ sheepfold? Does every sinful act you think and do grieve you, for you see it recounted in Isaiah 53:6 as the cause for which Jesus Christ died? Confess and forsake. Trust and obey.