In our Gospel passage today, Jesus cites an excerpt from the Prophet Isaiah. Although not explicitly mentioned, Isaiah in this passage starts his oracles on the character of the Suffering Servant. The Suffering Servant is an agent of the Lord sent to secure life for the multitudes. The Suffering Servant in rabbinic circles is usually identified as Israel: the Jewish faithfulness to the one true God will be a light to the nations.
The evangelist Matthew identifies Jesus to be the Suffering Servant by quoting Isaiah 42 here. Only through Jesus will all the nations be blessed; He is the justice that our world desperate needs. Jesus is the faithful servant to the Father revealing who the Father’s love for all humanity. The Suffering Servant works to bring God’s dream for humanity into our reality.
The “suffering” of the servant as Isaiah describes it is to lay down one’s life. For Jesus, He offered His life through an excruciatingly painful torture and crucifixion. In His Passion, Jesus fulfills what Isaiah prophesizes to be the cost of service:
He was spurned and avoided by men,
A man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
One of those from whom men hide their faces,
Spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
And who have thought any more of his destiny?
(Is 53: 3, 8)
As Christians, Jesus is our model and help to emulate a love that embraces suffering and pain for the sake of the beloved. We already live into this model of loving service every time our ego, pride, and overweening concern for ourselves shrink for the sake of someone else. We pray for Jesus’ love to be our guide as we embrace the suffering of our world, ready to accept the challenges that face us.
How have I been called to embrace pain for the sake of another? When do I experience the love of someone who suffered for me? How did that person reveal God to me?