S (Scripture): Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and avoided by others; a man who suffered, who knew sickness well.
Like someone from whom people hid their faces, he was despised, and we didn’t think about him.
4 It was certainly our sickness that he carried,
and our sufferings that he bore,
but we thought him afflicted,
struck down by God and tormented.
5 He was pierced because of our rebellions
and crushed because of our crimes.
He bore the punishment that made us whole;
by his wounds we are healed.
6 Like sheep we had all wandered away,
each going its own way,
but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes.
10 But the Lord wanted to crush him and to make him suffer. If his life is offered as restitution, he will see his offspring; he will enjoy long life. The Lord’s plans will come to fruition through him.
11 After his deep anguish he will see light, and he will be satisfied.
Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant, will make many righteous, and will bear their guilt.
12 Therefore, I will give him a share with the great, and he will divide the spoil with the strong, in return for exposing his life to death and being numbered with rebels, though he carried the sin of many and pleaded on behalf of those who rebelled.
O (Observation): The Suffering Servant – the name many have given to this character described here in Isaiah 53 – is known to many as a foretelling of the Savior to come, Jesus the Christ.
This servant comes to bear the shame and sin of God’s people (of all humanity?)…
God let fall on this servant all of our brokenness, all of our punishment.
A (Application): For Christians…the fact that a servant of God – named Jesus – suffered and made us whole and redeemed us from the power of sin and death and eternal damnation is pretty clear. What is not so clear – and what is the fundamental difference between many lines within Christian thought is this: the reason “why” God gives a suffering servant is not as apparent to us.
Many have argued that we screwed up and that Jesus died in our place. As if God was angry and needed appeasing (penal substitutionary atonement theory). This assumes that we needed God to change God’s mind about us. That God demanded a sacrifice to be appeased, that God might look kindly upon us again. The result: God needs satisfaction (blood), Jesus saves our hides, we should feel guilty about this.
Parts of this view are helpful, and some parts are not so helpful.
Instead, I lean into what is known as the Christus Victor atonement theory, which is to say that through Jesus taking on our sins and sickness, and finally succumbing to these to the point of death, and then in being resurrected, God overcomes theses evil powers and sets us free from them. In this case, we need not feel guilty (repentant, yes; guilty, maybe), but empowered by God’s grace. And in this case, God’s mind is not changed about how to love God’s people. No…in this view, our mind is changed about God. God is not vindictive. God is love. Sacrificial love. Now we have something to emulate. Now we have something we can learn from God. Sacrifice for others, that others might know of God’s great love. In this is freedom.
Yeah…that’s it for me.
P (Prayer): Lord, keep my mind open to your love and empower me to serve my neighbor. Amen.