Monday, 15 April 2019

The Suffering Servant - Isaah 53 / Matthew 27

As we have heard before the block of Isaiah 40 - 55 describes a servant, although it is sometimes unclear whether it is talking of the whole of God's people or just one individual. For that individual the Spirit rests on him, anointing to bring justice, to lead people out. It will be a wide-ranging ministry, bringing in and including others, brought through this one person. Yet in chapter 53 this one servant suffers, is led out to die, is cut off, punished, and killed.

We read that he is led out in silence. He wasn't a common sinner like everyone else, so he simply didn't need to protest his innocence or argue his case. He just went through with it. Yet that meant being cut off like one who had become an utter disgrace! In some cultures today a family member might be cut off if they do not keep the family's approval. In Jewish law those against God were to be cut off, and Jewish law also had the concept of a 'scapegoat' on the 'day of atonement': the goat would be symbolically sent out into the wilderness.

This servant wasn't self-appointed either. Verse 10 says it is God's will that he suffer - but of course that raises all kinds of questions for us. Yet back in verse 4 it says 'he took up', i.e. it is active on the servant's part - he isn't coerced. In the cross the whole Trinity is at work: The Father's will; the Son's agreement; the Spirit enabling to see it through.

In verse 12 it says 'he bore', i.e. he took the responsibility, the consequences. Verse 10 talks of a 'guilt offering': this is an offering you make when you realise you have made a mistake (as set out in Leviticus 5 & 6). This echoes verse 5 which talks of being pierced for our wrongdoing, being crushed instead of us for stepping out of line.

Yet for all that verses 11 & 12 gives hints: that though the servant will suffer and die, that this will not be the last word. Yes the servant will die, but he will be vindicated - lifted up and shown to be right. Chapter 54 starts spelling this out - enabling a new people called out by the Lord, a new exodus, a new freedom from slavery, a new heritage of promise.

The whole of Israel's own slavery to freedom story predicts this new passover lamb event - which is for anyone who believes in Jesus (the suffering servant) to be included and part of the people of God and His Kingdom. As we go into the week leading up to Easter, it is worthwhile pausing and reflecting on this great event marked by suffering.

Resources for reflection:

No comments:

Post a comment