Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
SUFFERING - ROAD TO SALVATIONIsaiah 53: 1-12
Postures of Faith
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.[e]
When you make his life an offering for sin,[f]
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him, the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish, he shall see light;[g]
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one,[h] my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. ( Isaiah 53: 10-11)
It has been said that Deutero-Isaiah wrote the Chapters of Isaiah 40-55. Moreover, today’s bible portion is taken from the Deutero-Isaiah part. It talks about the suffering servant of God who is in pain due to the sins of humankind. Who is the servant? At the beginning of this chapter, in Isa 53:2a, two-word pictures are described to portray the Servant. It portrays the Servant as a “young plant” and “a root out of the dry ground”. Isa 53:2b further describes the servant as one who had “no form, no majesty that we should look at him” and “no beauty we should desire him”. He was one whose demeanor, style, view of life, and money and possessions, would be different from what we expected. None of it would endorse our way of living. People did not feel endorsed around Jesus. He was so lowly and unimpressive that our aspirations in the life of power and reputation would stand in stark contrast to Him. In Isa 53:4-6, it gives a series of causes and effects. He bears our sorrows instead of falling in despair at our rejection. He carried our sufferings rather than adding to them. He is wounded for our misdeeds in our place, rather than avenging them. Instead of crushing us for our transgressions, he gets crushed in our place. Furthermore, Jesus takes on all of our punishment and lashing for our mischievous and rebellious behaviors in order for us to have peace and be cured. Isa 53:7 continues to provide us with two additional word images that assist us to understand more about this Servant. He is compared to a lamb being carried to the slaughter, alluding to the Passover lamb sacrificed in place of every Jewish firstborn. Christ, we know, is the clean Lamb led to the slaughter. Our sins are atoned for by the spilling of his blood. He'd be like a sheep that remains quiet before its shearer, expressing complete acquiescence and surrender to the shearer. In front of Pilate and Herod, Christ did not open his mouth to defend himself. These hardships were not insignificant. He'd go through a lot of pain and be shut off from the living world (Isa 53:8). The land was significant to the Jews because it was linked to God's covenant promises to them. Being shut off from your land also means losing your inheritance. The Servant stands in our place, suffering and being sentenced to death. The aim is that the Servant will die, but as an innocent person rather than a guilty one. When you know someone's deepest wishes and what makes them happy, you know their heart. Isa 53:10a is also translated as "it delighted the Lord to hurt him." We can see God the Father's heart in this passage. He crushed His Son not just as a symbolic gesture, but because it was in God's heart to bear the whole weight of sin. He did everything on purpose and in the end, from the planning stages to the execution. It wasn't a fluke.
Suffering, according to Pope Francis, is a call to conversion. It serves as a reminder of our fragility and weakness. Suffering is seen from the creation itself. Usually, suffering is pictured as a devilish act. It is usually explained as God’s curse to that person. However, in the present context, we see many innocent suffer as we are going through a pandemic. How can we then say that suffering is God’s act on humans? Job draws light to it. Innocent do suffer, but it is not to destroy us but to strengthen them in faith. N. T. Wright, in his book God and Pandemic, says, “ The God we perceive in Jesus is the same God who grieved at his friend's tomb. The God we perceive in Jesus is "the spirit who sighs without saying anything." Christ is the best example of innocent suffering. He was innocent but bore the pain for universal salvation. So open our hearts and minds for godly intervention during our pain and agony. Never pray to God not to stop suffering but pray for his strength to overcome suffering.
God empowers us to have faith the size of a mustard seed. Strengthen us to face the uncertainties in our life that we are yet to face. Grant us your spirit to do good in heart, mind, and soul. In Jesus Christ, we pray Amen.
Thought for the Day
The suffering that is gladly borne ceases to be suffering and becomes an indescribable delight.
Mathew Abraham Varghese
Mar Thoma Theological Seminary kottayam