Friday 02 April 2021

Bible Book:

The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (53.11)

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Friday 2 April 2021

Psalm 22


Isaiah’s 'servant songs' describe a servant who has been chosen to do God’s work and yet in doing so experiences significant suffering and dies. They are seen as prophetic statements, not only giving hope to a people in exile, who would have been the first to hear them, but also to subsequent generations who were waiting for a Messiah. This is the fourth and final song and the one that most clearly describes the pain and anguish that is experienced on many different levels. The servant is physically disfigured (52.14) which, as those with incurable skin diseases of the time knew all too well, would have also left them with the pain of being a social outcast. They also have the mental anguish of being personally despised and rejected (53.3), and added to that they are not only "wounded" but actually "crushed" (53.5) by the burden they bear. Ultimately this leads to their death and even then, after all that has happened, the degradation continues as their grave is “with the wicked” (53.9).

And yet amidst all this pain and suffering, or perhaps because of it, something incredible is happening. The servant is not only carrying the burden of the failings of others, but through this process he is bringing others closer to God, “the righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (53.11). This is like the scapegoat on the Jewish Day of Atonement, bringing forgiveness to a whole community by being sent out of it (Leviticus 16.22). But unlike the scapegoat, that is lost to the wilderness, this servant will ultimately “be exalted and lifted up” (52.13), an outcome previously described by Isaiah as relating to God in the Temple (Isaiah 6.1).

This year, more than many in our lifetimes, has been a year of suffering for so many people. Millions of people across the world have experienced the loss of family members and friends due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will have led to grief and torment, anger and depression and a profound sense of emptiness. Perhaps, just as Jesus cried from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), those who have been bereaved will also have felt abandoned by God.

Good Friday can bring many emotions, as we see how Jesus is abandoned by all those who have travelled with him and befriended him, and how he was humiliated, abused and unjustly killed. And yet we also witness how the suffering servant accepts his fate without resistance, how he forgives those who mock him, how he is taken in to the depths of despair and yet how those who witness what happens begin to see the Son of God before them (Mark 15:39).

To Ponder:

  • The gospels record Jesus speaking seven times whilst on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:34, 43, 46; John 19:26-28, 30) . Read and reflect on some or all of these words throughout the day.
  • On this darkest of days, reflect on the words of Isaiah, “Out of this anguish he shall see light” (53:11). Let us give thanks for where we see evidence of light today.
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