The suffering Servant

The suffering Servant

Good Friday    April 10, 2020             Isaiah 52:13-53:12

The suffering Servant

He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted; he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed. He was oppressed and he was inflicted, yet he did not open his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter he did not open his mouth. He was cut of from the land of the living stricken for the transgression of my people.

            Nowhere do we find a better description of how Jesus suffered as an innocent person in our place. And yet in order for us to really understand what happened on that day that is now called Good Friday we need to understand the words of the prophet Isaiah. In order for us to interpret what happened when Jesus suffered as an innocent man we need to understand how he fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah.

You see, Jesus was a Jewish man who was born and raised within the Jewish tradition. He was familiar with Jewish Scripture; he embraced his Jewishness and Jewish practices and customs. He however did not make a secret about the fact that God fulfilled the Scriptures in and through him. What can we learn about the suffering servant in Isaiah and how did Jesus fulfill these words of the prophet Isaiah?

There are 4 servant songs in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Scholars disagree who this suffering servant was. However, they are more in agreement on what the tasks of the servant were:

  1. The servant is called by God and his entire life is affected by the call,
  2. He is to bring forth justice to the nations,
  3. He brings forth justice in truth,
  4. He will bring light to the nations,
  5. He will suffer and will be humiliated as an innocent man,
  6. He will be exalted.

            When we think about the life of Jesus, the way he lived, the way he was obedient to the end, his passion for God’s will and his zeal for justice and his suffering, it does not come as a surprise at all that the church has understood the suffering servant to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ!

Jesus’ entire life was dedicated to God’s work. His life’s purpose was to do God’s will. As a matter of fact, his life mirrored God’s will for human kind. He entire live showed compassion, acceptance and forgiveness. Even when they crucified him with criminals he prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

He brought the light of forgiveness, acceptance and love to those who did not deserve it. Even on the cross, he told a criminal: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.

            He knew that the world has lost its way. The world does not know what God’s purpose is. At the beginning God made everything very good but then somehow, for some reason, things spun out of control. Human beings lost their way. But then we, who lost our way, were given another chance. We were told what God wants. God’s spokesperson, Micah instructed us that we ought: “to do justice, and love kindness and walk humbly with our God”. And yet humankind failed to do so.

            And then for some divine reason, God decided to start over with us. God sends Jesus, his only Son, to come and show us what God’s way is and what justice looks like.             And not only did he show us, he lived it. Even as the world considered it foolish to turn the other cheek, to stand up for the weak, and to walk another mile with someone, Jesus showed us that this is how people in God’s Kingdom live!

            Justice was a key concept in God’s kingdom and Jesus illustrated that it was God’s way! But on this day, we are reminded that seeking justice is a dangerous path. One may be ridiculed, pushed aside and marginalized. Having a passion for God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness may have dire consequences.   As we gather together on this day of terrible suffering we remember that Jesus paid the ultimate price as the suffering servant for He did God’s will. He suffered and died in our place and made us his disciples. We are to continue the work that he started!

On the cross Jesus said: “it is finished” and “Father into hands I commend my spirit”. He gave his own life in order that we may receive life and purpose! He gave his life to reconcile us with God and with each other.

            This Friday is called Good because the suffering servant showed us that not even the grave is strong enough to hold the one sent by God. Even as we are deeply aware of the terrible suffering that took place on this day many centuries ago, we have hope and joy, because we know that Jesus was raised. God raised him from the dead to give us hope that God’s love four humankind is stronger than any destructive power.

            When Jesus breathed his last breath it was not the end. We know how God’s story with us goes: He was raised by a mighty act of God, he comfort us assuring us that God is in control of God’s creation, of our lives and our destiny.

            The destructive powers of this world may seem great, but ultimately in the death and resurrection of the One sent by God, these powers are unmasked. God’s powerful work through the suffering servant changed everything, so that we can live with freedom and joy. We can live as people who have been touched by God’s grace. We know that God loves us and therefore we can live lives fully committed to God and God’s world.

            Through Christ’s perfect sacrifice we become part of God’s work. We are now servants too…

  1. Servants called by God
  2. Called to bring forth justice to the nations,
  3. Called to bring light to the nations,
  4. We may suffer and may be humiliated,
  5. We will be exalted when we see God face to face

All this because of the suffering servant Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior. Amen