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Struck Down by God?

Isaiah 53:1  Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2  For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3  He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. 4  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53 is the last of the four “Servant Songs.”[1] Many Christians read this passage retroactively (through the filter of our experience of Jesus) and discover a description of Jesus who was unjustly crucified; on the other hand Jewish people see the “servant” in Isaiah 53 as a poetic symbol to describe the community of God’s people.[2]

The central idea in this passage is a repudiation of the ancient belief that the one who suffers, the one who ‘carries diseases’ must have been “struck down by God” (Isa 53:4). Here is expressed the amazement that illness and suffering are not God’s weapons against sinful human beings. Instead, these are often the result of the actions of other people: “wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” describes victims of human sinfulness. Women suffer because they are abused by men; children suffer because they are hurt by adults; the weak suffer because strong people take advantage of them.

Fasting during Lent can sensitize us to those people who struggle to survive the day. Pray for eyes to see, and a heart that is willing to assist.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Palm Sunday

The Wounds and Sorrows of Ministry

The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 136.

This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day

[1] The others are found in Isaiah chapters 42, 49 and 50.

[2] Beginning with chapter 41, the equating of God’s Servant with the nation of Israel is made nine times by the prophet Isaiah,

“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)