Isaiah’s ‘Suffering Servant’ points to mission of Jesus

Image result for Jesus suffering servant

 by

 Damien F. Mackey

 

 

“The Suffering Servant, who has the guilt of all laid upon him (53:6), giving up his life as a sin-offering (53:10) and bearing the sins of many (53:12), thereby carries out the ministry of the high priest, fulfilling the figure of the priesthood from deep within. He is both priest and victim, and in this way he achieves reconciliation”.

Pope Benedict XVI

 

 

“Suffering Servant”

prefigures Jesus Christ

 

Richard B. Hays, writing a review of Pope Benedict XVI’s book, Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection (2011), acknowledges an outstanding feature of Benedict’s book: how the Old Testament prefigures and leads to the New Testament: https://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/08/001-benedict-and-the-biblical-jesus

 

Benedict and the Biblical Jesus

 

….

From beginning to end, Benedict grounds his interpretation of Jesus in the Old as well as the New Testament. The significance of the gospel stories is consistently explicated in relation to the Old Testament’s typological prefiguration of Jesus, and Jesus is shown to be the flowering or consummation of all that God had promised Israel in many and various ways. The resulting intercanonical conversation offers many arresting insights into Jesus’ identity and significance. Many of the connections that Benedict discerns are traditional in patristic exegesis, but his explication of them is artful and effective.

 

[End of quote]

 

On p. 81, Pope Benedict credits French priest André Feuillet with pointing out how well Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Songs throw light upon the high-priestly prayer of Jesus (John 17):

 

….

Before we consider the individual themes contained in Jesus’ high-priestly prayer, one further Old Testament allusion should be mentioned, one that has again been studied by André Feuillet. He shows that the renewed and deepened spiritual understanding of the priesthood found in John 17 is already prefigured in Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Songs, especially in Isaiah 53. The Suffering Servant, who has the guilt of all laid upon him (53:6), giving up his life as a sin-offering (53:10) and bearing the sins of many (53:12), thereby carries out the ministry of the high priest, fulfilling the figure of the priesthood from deep within. He is both priest and victim, and in this way he achieves reconciliation. Thus the Suffering Servant Songs continue along the whole path of exploring the deeper meaning of the priesthood and worship, in harmony with the prophetic tradition ….

 

On p. 136, Benedict returns to this theme:

 

For we have yet to consider Jesus’ fundamental interpretation of his mission in Mark 10:45, which likewise features the word “many”; “For the Son of [Man] also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. Here he is clearly speaking of the sacrifice of his life, and so it is obvious that Jesus is taking up the Suffering Servant prophecy from Isaiah 53 and linking it to the mission of the Son of Man, giving it a new interpretation.

 

And then, on pp. 173 and 199, he broadens it:

 

This idea of vicarious atonement is fully developed in the figure of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, who takes the guilt of many upon himself and thereby makes them just (53:11). In Isaiah, this figure remains mysterious: the Song of the Suffering Servant is like a gaze into the future in search of the one who is to come.

…. The history of religions knows the figure of the mock king — related to the figure of the “scapegoat”. Whatever may be afflicting the people is offloaded onto him: in this way it is to be driven out of the world. Without realizing it, the soldiers were actually accomplishing what those rites and ceremonies were unable to achieve: “Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5). Thus caricatured, Jesus is led to Pilate, and Pilate presents him to the crowd — to all mankind: “Ecce homo”, “Here is the man!” (Jn 19:5).

 

Before concluding his treatment of the subject on pp. 252-253:

 

A pointer towards a deeper understanding of the fundamental relationship with the word is given by the earlier qualification: Christ died “for our sins”. Because his death has to do with the word of God, it has to do with us, it is a dying “for”. In the chapter of Jesus’ death on the Cross, we saw what an enormous wealth of tradition in the form of scriptural allusions feeds into the background here, chief among them the fourth Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). Insofar as Jesus’ death can be located within this context of God’s word and God’s love, it is differentiated from the kind of death resulting from Man’s original sin as a consequence of his presumption in seeking to be like God, a presumption that could only lead to man’s plunge into wretchedness, into the destiny of death. ….

 

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