October 11

Isaiah 53:4-9

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” vs. 5

Israel’s exile in Babylon meant a complete overhaul of the nation’s self-understanding. They had seen themselves as special, as God’s Chosen People, but now they had lost wealth and power, along with their standing in the world. The prophet, living with the exiles in Babylon, used the figure of a Suffering Servant to help them understand what had happened to them. His description of the Servant’s suffering is stunning in its detail and painted a picture of sacrificial atonement that was dear to their hearts. It’s a brilliant, insightful passage whose images captured the hearts of the people, and helped them understand their deliverance as a gift of God. Many centuries later, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, as believers tried to make sense of his suffering by turning to their scriptures, these verses jumped from the page. It was as though Isaiah had been writing about Jesus of Nazareth–the description worked so perfectly. As time went on and theologians began to craft what became the orthodox teachings of redemption and atonement, Isaiah became the major prooftext for their now familiar doctrines. And whether we subscribe to those teachings or not, there is little doubt that these 2500 year old words from an ancient prophet are still a remarkable way for hurting people to find meaning in suffering. 

Thought for the Day: What does the death of Jesus have to do with my sins?

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