Jesus, The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 42:1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets.

A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.

In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—

the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,

who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,

who gives breath to its people,

and life to those who walk on it:

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;

I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you

to be a covenant for the people

and a light for the Gentiles,

to open eyes that are blind,

to free captives from prison

and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!

I will not yield my glory to another

or my praise to idols.

See, the former things have taken place,

and new things I declare;

before they spring into being

I announce them to you.” (NIV)

Yesterday I made mention that many Christians today look to the Servant Songs as being directly about Jesus. I also implied that I disagree with them. Let me say it loud and clear. I do not think Isaiah wrote this with Jesus in mind. I do not think God inspired Isaiah to write this about Jesus, although believing that God is in the present in all times at all times, there is no way (in my mind) that God wouldn’t have known this would apply to Jesus equally well. BUT, having said that, this isn’t about Jesus. It is about Israel. It just so happens, however, that Jesus and his disciples were good students of the Bible. They knew these passages and they used them to express what Jesus was up to, how Jesus operated and why Jesus did what he did.

I believe Jesus lived out God’s true intent of being a bearer of justice and hope to ALL people, just as Israel was intended to. Jesus was wise enough to know that his way would never be accepted by the religious establishment. He knew the human will well enough to know that hubris and self-interest would win the day over humility and service every day of the week. He knew that the religious elite would never follow the truth of divine love because it would mean giving up their power. It would mean giving up their influential position in society. It would mean they would have to admit that their privilege has been gained at the expense of the poor. That was not going to happen. So Jesus knew in his lifetime that these passages were the best ones to express his calling and describe his ministry. He would be the servant of all and he would suffer for it.

Jesus’ disciples on the other hand, didn’t get it until after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. LATER is when it dawned on them that Jesus was a suffering servant. He would not use violence (break a reed) nor would he neglect the weak and powerless (put out a smoldering wick) to accomplish his ministry. No. In fact, that would be used against him. But again, there is a double meaning. Jesus would not use violence, but when violence would be used against him, it would not break him. Jesus would care for the poor and the poor wouldn’t use him up. That’s always the fear, isn’t it, that the poor will use us up, drain us dry. It isn’t true, of course, at least not in God’s economy. If we all use what God has given us, there is enough for everyone. 

And now we are the body of Christ here in the world. We aren’t Jesus, of course, but we are called to live like we are. We are called to care for the poor, tend the sick, empower the powerless and protect the vulnerable. It takes faith, of course, to stare down the fear of our lack and insufficiency while we are serving. We cannot see it from the outside. We aren’t likely to ever understand how it works, but to trust that in God, things are not as they seem in the world. In God’s kingdom, it is the strong one who offers to suffer for the benefit of others. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength of purpose. At the same time, it is not used in a manipulative way that is not service, but self-serving. It is always a delicate balance because the human will can bend any good thing to self-serving ends. We always have to be on guard for that.

But that’s the thing about God. God knows we’ll do that and loves us anyway; calling us to be in this process as partners in creation of a just world even though justice is not our natural tendency. And so it goes. We have the opportunity to follow Jesus and live into his way of living if we dare… if we trust… so that we will ultimately be one with Christ.

And so see… the scriptures are ever new:

See, the former things have taken place,

and new things I declare;

before they spring into being

I announce them to you.”

This is the repeating pattern, the echo that reverberates through all time. God is continually doing a new thing, although it is the old thing done in a new age. God is continually revealing God’s nature so that we can recognize God in our world and be sustained and even strengthened.

Take heart and know that God’s goodness is with you, God’s power is always in action, God’s love abides… no matter what century we live in.

Blessings to you,

Pastor Karla

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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