What Sort of Passion Is This? Reflections on the Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a

Isaiah must have thought very deeply about the long history of his people, the reality that they were always pawns among the power brokers of the Near East, forever caught between the shifting powers of the Mesopotamian valley and the constant authority of the nation on the Nile. There is no way that any Israel, new or old, could ever through power bring any sort of lasting justice to the earth. Hence, the famous Is 52-53 focuses on suffering, on being despised and rejected, on being afflicted and wounded, because that has been the portrait of the history of Israel in fact. Little wonder that we have ourselves focused our worship on the same things: suffering, humiliation, pain, affliction, wounds. But I wish to argue that that focus badly distorts what Isaiah has to teach us.

What we need to celebrate and emphasize at Holy Week is not a recreation of the wounds of the servant, but an emphasis on what all that means for the way we live in this world. We must for good and all give up our pretentions to power, our constant desire to control others. That way, the way of the world in which we live, never brings justice and can never bring it. Only the non-retaliatory servant can be our model. Too often we have claimed, "Jesus paid it all." No, he did not. He modeled for us the way of the servant, but he urged us then to become servants, rather than masters, if we are to find justice for the nations and hence the rule of God in life. Holy Week is finally not about the blood of Jesus and the magic of his resurrected corpse. It is about a new way of thinking about our lives if we are willing to follow the way of the servant of YHWH, the one we Christians name Jesus.

4/3/2014 4:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.