3 - Suffering Servant
Reading: Isaiah 53, Matthew 27:11-42, Romans 8:16-18
Content: On Friday April 3rd, 33 A.D. Jesus of Nazareth became the supreme sacrifice for all of humanity – He became the Suffering Servant. In doing so Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the ancient prophet Isaiah, who nearly five hundred years earlier spoke these words... “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
In the early hours of that Friday morning when Jesus is accused by the Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin court, “He gave no answer” (Matthew 27:12). When Pilate asked Jesus, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” (verse 13), Jesus “made no reply, not even to a single charge – the governor was greatly amazed.” (verse 14).
At 3:00pm that Friday, Jesus the guiltless – innocent - suffering servant, would die in our place so that we could go free. It sounds strange, but in this sense, Barabbas represents you and me - the guilty. No, we are not notorious criminals, but we have committed our share of crimes (verse 16). In (verse 17) it is a question of ‘Barabbas or Jesus’. Pilate certainly knew that Jesus was innocent. As his public hearing of Jesus unfolded and unraveled, Pilate could clearly see that it was “out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him” (Matthew 27:18). Envy is often the sin of the religious and self-righteous. For the pious, there is a ruthless temptation to envy those whom God appears to be using more than He is using them. But Pilate had a more personal reason for knowing that Jesus was innocent. His wife had been warned in a dream and confirmed that Jesus was an “innocent man.” By messenger she told her husband “do not have anything to do with that righteous man” (verse 19). Pilate foolishly ignored her advice.
Pilate, the man who was to be remembered throughout history as the “decision maker” in the unjustified murder of Jesus has been recited in the Christian Creed of Faith for nineteen centuries throughout the world… “crucified under Pontius Pilate.” It is the ultimate absurdity that he tried to avoid responsibility by first trying to release Him 3 times; and because the malicious mob would not tolerate it he resorted to blaming others: “I am innocent, His death is your responsibility!” Pilate then washed his hands of Jesus blood (verse 24). They wanted Barabbas (the real criminal) released and they wanted Jesus crucified. They had no problem having His blood on their hands and the hands of their children – and they said it out loud (verse 25). Pilate gave them Barabbas (verse 26).
The suffering servant prophecy of Isaiah is revealed, confirmed and fulfilled: ‘He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities’ (Isaiah 53:5).
How ironic that Jesus truly was the long-awaited Jewish King, but He was not the kind of King that the people wanted – yet, He was exactly the kind of king they needed. In humility and disgrace, Jesus faced their envy, false accusations, unjust criticisms, unfairness, misrepresentations, corrupt authority, mockery and personal insults from both the religious and the secular world. Even the petty thief on the cross next to Him was emboldened enough to mock Jesus. That Friday, the perfect storm of contempt and evil came at the Suffering Servant from all sides.
The innocent blood of the Suffering Servant was spilled as He was beaten with a razor-whip and then handed over to be crucified (Matthew 24–26). Again, ironically those who passed by said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (verse 40), but Jesus died as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. The onlookers didn’t understand that Jesus’ self-sacrifice was voluntary. They said, “He saved others… but He can’t save himself!” (verse 42).
Here then is our Good Friday reality as we are presented with Jesus the Suffering Servant. He saved you and I because he was willing not to save himself. To press further, He had an “eyes wide open” understanding of the missional purpose of His death and outcomes: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Meditation: Is there any connection for you between Jesus the suffering servant, and you the follower of Jesus? If so, what is that connection look like and how does it become relevant to your current circumstances?
Please Consider these this passage from Romans 8:16-18, as you make your connections. Paul is certainly one who received a revelation knowledge and a first- hand experience to the reality of Suffering Servant. He wrote…
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.
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