Both Jesus and the Servant face scorn and suffering with the help of God. The Servant has had his ear opened in a receptive posture to receive the word, which he will pass on to sustain the weary. The Servant accepts abuse without retaliation because he is sustained by God.
We see Jesus hold a similar servant-like posture. Perhaps the servant song inspires Jesus to teach his followers to maintain their serenity in the face of oppression. Jesus teaches the practice of turning the other cheek (see Matthew 5:38-42) in the same way the servant turned both cheeks to those who insulted him. Jesus instructs his followers to go beyond retributive justice, beyond an eye for an eye, by refusing to take any violent action. If an enemy “demands your shirt,” says Jesus, “give your coat as well” (Matt. 5:40, ap). Imagine that scene: Doesn’t the act of going beyond what is required make the oppressor look a little foolish?
The posture of Jesus and the Servant was the spiritual basis for Martin Luther King Jr.’s teaching of nonviolent resistance during the US Civil Rights movement. King and the leaders of the movement taught that love is stronger than hate. Their witness of dignity in the face of hatred inspired more people to join the movement despite beatings, imprisonment, and bombings. Their courage sustained the weary.
When Jesus is tested, scorned, and abused, he does not respond in anger. Instead he relies on faith in God. Like the Suffering Servant, Christ has the confidence in his vindication; he knows that he will be redeemed—and his redemption is ours.
Lord Jesus, sustain us when we are weary with the power of your word. Help us not retreat from challenge but remain rooted and grounded in your mercy and truth. May our confidence in your vindication give us the power to live in peace. Amen.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Psalm 118 is a song of rejoicing, yet it also includes the prophecy that the cornerstone must experience rejection. Isaiah speaks of physical suffering, of being beaten, disgraced, and spat on. We see elements of this in the Gospel reading, where Luke describes the final moments of Jesus’ life. Bloodied and beaten, Jesus hangs on the cross and breathes his last. In Philippians, Paul places this drama within the eternal narrative of God’s redeeming work. Jesus leaves his rightful place and becomes flesh. He experiences pain and suffering, even the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion. Jesus can empathize with our suffering because he has suffered. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does the Suffering Servant speak to your life today?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you hear differently the familiar verses of this psalm when you read them together?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Do you find it paradoxical to live as a beloved child of God and as a servant? If so, how do you live in this paradox?
Read Luke 19:28-40. How do you experience the extreme emotional highs and lows of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, even knowing how it will all turn out?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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