By Elaine Knudtson
“Comfort Ye My People” from Messiah as performed by the London Philharmonic Chorus
The Suffering Servant
Isaiah speaks of a suffering servant, born of a virgin, despised and rejected. Christianity is unique in having God identify with us in our suffering by taking on humanity and becoming one with us. He suffered and died; we are not alone on the journey.
Dear Lord, help us to accept Jesus as the fulfillment of your plan for redemption of this world. Give us a deeper understanding of your role as the suffering servant and how it speaks to our brokenness.
“’The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him and on the third day He will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.” Mat. 17:22-23
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many. . .” Isa. 53
One of the most common objections raised against belief in God arises from the suffering of the innocent. Such objections presuppose that a God of love would not allow sickness, death and pain if He had the power to stop them. Hence, either God does not exist, or He is powerless.
The Biblical story begins with God’s perfect creation at the beginning. There was no pain, suffering or death, but through the free will of choice, humanity became separated from God, and sin, death, and suffering became part of the human experience. The story of redemption is how God intervenes in our suffering and ultimately returns us to the “Garden of Eden” at the end of time when there will be a new creation of heaven and earth. But, we are NOW in the middle of the story, not at the end.
Jesus is God’s answer to pain and suffering; He participated in it. He was not sent to perform miracles and right all wrongs in the political system of the day. He came to die. In the midst of our pain and suffering, we have one who understands what it means to be despised and rejected. He identifies with physical suffering and betrayal. He identifies with the effects of sin on the world; He came to release us from it. Through His death we receive forgiveness and reconciliation leading to our ultimate resurrection. We don’t fully understand how all of this fits together; we would prefer a much easier path of happily ever after in the here and now. Part of living by faith is to know that in the midst of the suffering, God is there with us.
Points to Ponder
- How does having a God who suffered and died help us through our own pain?
- God created a perfect world, but our choices disrupted the plan. What is the evidence that we are in a broken world? What does God say to us in that brokenness?
- We are in the middle of the redemption story, between the Garden of Eden and the revelation of the New Heaven and the New Earth. How does that change your expectations for this present life?
O Lord we resist the brokenness of this world as seen in injustice, oppression, suffering and death. In the midst of our confusion you bring Jesus, the suffering servant, to comfort us and ultimately lead us back to reconciliation. Help us receive comfort from your intervention in this world through the birth of Jesus. We look to the future resurrection.