Although today’s passage is deeply revered by Christians, its meaning is far from clear. Despite the problems with interpretation—we don’t even know for sure who the servant is—this passage has had a profound effect on believers. In these verses, the early Christians heard the story of the crucifixion. We also find many parallels to the Gospels’ stories of Jesus’ death on the cross.
What we can see in this model is that Jesus—innocent, free of guilt—took on himself the punishment for our rebellion and waywardness. There is nowhere for us to hide; we are revealed as we truly are: “All we like sheep have gone astray.” We are on shaky ground as we stand before the suffering servant on this Good Friday. But incredibly, hope emerges from the horror of the crucifixion. We can see rising from the ashes the beauty of God’s act of reconciliation and redemption. Even though we were sinners, Christ died for us. (See Romans 5:8.) We see the Lord in his perfection suffering for sinners like us.
Where suffering had previously been explained as the inevitable consequence of disobedience or as a test of faithfulness, this model is different. Here, suffering taken on willingly, silently, vicariously, by one doing the will of God is an act of redemption. When we see our own suffering in the same light, mourning transforms into rejoicing. In the words of Hebrews 12, it was for the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured the cross and disregarded its shame. Such love for sinners on this Good Friday stuns us and leaves us slack-jawed as we lift our hearts to the Lord.
Loving God, as we gather today to pray and reflect on Jesus’ death on the cross, we are filled with gratitude that your mercy is wide enough to include every one of us who accepts your gift. Indeed, your suffering has redeemed us, and we rejoice. Amen.
Although we anticipate the celebration of Easter, this week’s readings remind us to slow down and walk through the suffering of Jesus. If we fail to understand why he has to die, then we fail to grasp fully the power of his resurrection. Monday’s passage in Isaiah anticipates the Messiah, the Anointed One, coming to bring justice to the nations. Tuesday’s Psalm laments that sometimes the righteous are met with scorn. The Hebrews passage for Wednesday declares that Christ knows of the suffering that awaits him, yet he endures it because of the joy to come. On Thursday, the reading in John shows us that even when facing death, Jesus continues to model selfless love. Friday brings pain and rejection, but Sunday is the greatest day in human history. He is risen indeed!
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. Consider someone who has disappointed, hurt, or betrayed you whom God might be calling you to love. How could a posture of service help you act in a loving way even if you cannot feel affection for this person?
Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12. How does this description of a suffering servant help you more fully understand Jesus’ suffering on the cross?
Read Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24. When has grief felt like mercy? When has noticing you are alive felt like a miracle?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24. Recall a time you forgot how to sing God’s praises despite the joy around you. How did God provide the song?
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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