19 April 2019

Isaiah 52:13—53:12

He was wounded for our transgressions.' (53:5)

Psalm: Psalm 22


Today is observed in most Christian traditions as Good Friday in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus. Today’s passage has traditionally, from New Testament times, been regarded as looking ahead to his suffering (see for example 1 Peter 2:21-25) . Some scholars argue that passages like Mark 10:45 show that it was in Jesus’ mind also.

Yet, as a glance at any commentary or even at the footnotes in NRSV will show, the details of the passage are by no means clear. In some places it is not even certain what the original wording was. Who is the servant of whom the text speaks? Was it a definite individual? Was it even a way of referring to Israel, so often suffering under foreign oppression? Different theories of how the death of Jesus brings about forgiveness and new life for us have been built upon it. It would take many pages to go into detail about the different interpretations.

Today, however, we can concentrate on the overall picture: a servant of God who undergoes terrible suffering and humiliation, accepts it without complaint and in the end is exalted and honoured, not in spite of his sufferings but because of them. He suffered because of us and we are healed by his suffering. It is easy to see this as a prophetic description of Jesus.


To Ponder:

  • Reflect on the death of Jesus in the light of this passage.
  • Can this description of God’s servant be applied to others beside Jesus? If so, whom do you have in mind?
  • Does the suffering of Jesus release us from suffering for our own wrongdoing? If so, in what sense?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England.

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