Praising the Suffering Servant

The Passion of the Christ

Praise of the suffering servant

Isaiah 52:13–53:12

*This is one of the most famous passages in Isaiah and one of the most famous messianic prophecies in the Bible. In its format, this poem is an encomium—a poem that praises its subject with such formulas as a formal introduction to the subject, the distinguished ancestry of the subject, a catalog of praiseworthy acts and attributes, the superiority of the subject to all rivals, and a conclusion urging the reader to emulate the person or quality being praised. This song of the suffering servant is actually a parody of the conventional encomium: although it praises the subject with the conventional categories, it inverts them and praises him for what the world at large would regard as unpraiseworthy qualities. A lead-in promises to praise the subject in standard terms (52:13), but the suffering servant is then praised for being marred beyond parallel (52:14–15), for being of undistinguished ancestry and social standing (53:1–2), for acts that by conventional standards would render him contemptible (53:3–6), and for a life’s conclusion that is the opposite of a conventional success story (53:7–9). Verses 3–6 stress the subject’s redemptive actions, and verses 7–9 highlight their tragic nature when judged by ordinary standards of success. The concluding section reads more like a standard encomium, as the suffering servant is praised for what his suffering has accomplished (53:10–12). Even here there are reversals and paradoxes, as the suffering servant triumphs not because he defeated his enemies in open combat for personal benefit but because he gave his life for others. Continue reading

Maundy Thursday

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

Luke 22:14-23

Obedience instead of sacrifice

This year, I’m taking a different perspective on observing Lent.  Ash Wednesday came and went silently, as my church never does anything special to commemorate the 40days of preparation for Jesus death and resurrection.  I used to think that was a bad thing, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on how to approach this time in the Christian calendar with a loving, obedient mentality–rather than a legalistic one.

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