This is the third of four “servant songs” in chapters 40–55 of
Isaiah. Who is this servant? We can only speculate. Some
claim it is Isaiah himself; others say it is a “type” or ideal model
of the righteous and faithful servant. But the servant could also
be a composite character of the exiles of Israel, still captive in
Babylon and longing for home.
Isaiah clearly has no hint of Jesus as the coming Messiah,
but early Christians quickly connected these prophetic texts to
their Lord. Like the promised servant, Jesus speaks on behalf of
Yahweh; he has learned to be attentive to the Lord’s direction,
and with God’s help, he will not be dissuaded in his mission.
We easily see the connection between this prophetic text
and the events of Holy Week. The servant’s face is set “like flint,”
and Luke tells us, “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be
taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
The servant of God faces hostility and suffering: “I gave my
back to those who struck me, . . . I did not hide my face from
insult and spitting.” Despite the troubled nature of his work,
the servant asserts confidence in God and contends, “I did not
The road of faithfulness, like Jesus’ journey through this
terrible and holy week, often takes us through dark places and
demands sturdy trust. But like Jesus, may we take a stand for
hope in God’s justice and mercy, a hope that shapes us who
claim it into ever more faithful servants of God.
Morning by morning, O God, waken our ears to hear your voice and to share your good news with the world you so love. Give us strength, even in the darkest days, to place our trust in you alone, for you are our help. Amen.
It is not appropriate to conclude that God disappears at the cross and only emerges again in the event of Easter. Christian proclamation of the cross begins with the understanding that even in Jesus’ utter abandonment, God was present. The Holy Week/Easter texts bring together the common themes of death’s reality, the powerful intrusion of the delivering God, and the manifold responses to resurrection. Paul argues that the gospel looks to many like nothing more than weakness and folly. The cross symbolizes defeat but is in reality the instrument of power and salvation. Isaiah 50:4-9a recalls the hostility that follows upon servanthood. A moment of acceptance, even welcome, will not hide from the servant the fact of the rejection to come. John 20 honestly faces the reality of death. Paul asserts in First Corinthians that the cross of Jesus Christ reveals the power of God.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. When have you faced a task with your face set like int? How did your resolve impact the outcome of your work?
• Read Matthew 27:57-66. When have you attempted to seal Jesus in a tomb? When have you felt anxious or fearful about the change Jesus might bring in your life?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. In what ways have you discovered the Cross to be God’s wisdom for you?
• Read John 20:1-18. How does Jesus’ resurrection signal new life to you? What comes to you “green and fresh” today?
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