Our Sunday Visitor
He opens my ear that I may hear
Reading I: Isaiah 50:4-7
- The first reading from Isaiah is taken from the third “Song of the Suffering Servant.”
- It shows us the disciple whose faithfulness is based on fidelity to God.
- Although the passage was originally written about someone else, when we read this passage we immediately think of Jesus.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
Feasting on the Word
Hard vs. soft power
In international relations theory, a distinction is made between hard power, which is coercive (e.g., military action or economic sanctions), and soft power, which attempts to influence and persuade through noncoercive means. Perhaps this distinction casts light on our text. In contrast to the vision of hard power we find in verses 2b and 3, the Servant practices soft power. He (presumably the Servant is male in this text; he has a beard, after all) teaches instead of commands. He sustains the weary instead of crushing the wicked. He listens instead of pontificates. Instead of hiding from suffering borne of obedience, and instead of striking back, he offers his back and his cheek. He hopes, he trusts, he waits.
SOURCE: Content taken from The Catholic Study Bible Notes ; Donald Senior, CP, John J. Collins, Mary Ann Gettyr; Copyright © 2016. Oxford University Press; 3rd edition. All rights reserved.
Servant speaks in the first person
Throughout Isaiah 50:4-9, the servant (Christ) is speaking in the first person, talking about himself. He begins by revealing the source of his astonishing teaching ministry, saying that the Lord God has given him the tongue of an instructed person and that the effect of the Father’s words is the sustaining of the weary. The servant goes beyond this to speak even of the practical side of how this comes about: every morning the Father would waken the Son and pour words of instruction into his ready ear. The New Testament gives ample evidence of how this was worked out in Jesus’s life. Mark 1:35 tells us of Jesus’s habit of getting up very early in the morning and going to a deserted place where he would pray. Part of that time involved the Father telling the Son specifically what works he would be doing and words he would be speaking that day. In John 7:16 Jesus said plainly, “My teaching isn’t mine but is from the one who sent me.” And in direct fulfillment of Isaiah 50, his words were amazingly comforting to brokenhearted sinners. For example, he said to a paralyzed man who had faith, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven” (Matt 9:2). His call to all those suffering under sin’s crushing yoke was alluring: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Isaiah 50:4-5 tells us that the Father taught him what to say and how to say it (see John 12:49).
SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
Understanding the Bible Commentary
Resistance by the community
Someone disliked the message enough to attempt to silence the messenger. Now we have had plenty of indication that the community resisted the prophet’s message, but its members have been characterized more as depressed and incredulous (“faint,” indeed) than as actively hostile. Where we have read of hostility and aggression, it has been on the part of the community’s Babylonian overlords. It is easy to imagine that their hostility should have become focused on someone who was encouraging the community to believe that Babylon’s attacker was its deliverer.
SOURCE: Content taken from UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE COMMENTARY SERIES (36 Volumes); W. Ward Gasque, Robert L Hubbard Jr., Robert K Johnston (General Editors); Copyright © 2000. Baker Books. All rights reserved.
God's Justice Bible
Isaiah 50:4–9 The identity of the Suffering Servant is obscure for Isaiah’s first hearers. Is it perhaps a description of Israel and her suffering? In Jesus’ life, however, these words come to a startling likeness.
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
Facing opposition to recovery
Isaiah 50:4-6 The Messiah is speaking here of his own determination to follow God’s call to him in spite of the hardships involved. He serves as a model to us in times when we need courage to follow through and obey God. Sometimes God’s program for us is difficult. It may involve receiving rebukes, suffering shame, or being misunderstood by those who do not like what we’re doing. We will face opposition to the recovery process because many people don’t want to lose their influence over us, or they feel threatened by our change in lifestyle. We must stand up to them and follow through with God’s plan for us.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC Bible Study
The Third Servant’s Song (God’s Suffering Servant)
by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)
The First Reading is from the third “Song of the Servant” in the Book of Isaiah. The 8th century BC prophet Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, composed four songs describing the ideal Servant-Son of God. Jesus fulfills each of the prophetic songs. He is God’s beloved Son who came, as Jesus said, “… to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28; Is 53:11). Through sinning, human beings incur a debt of sin to divine justice, the punishment of which is death. To ransom humanity from slavery to sin and death, Jesus paid the ransom and discharged the debt with the price of His blood. By dying in place of the guilty, Jesus fulfills the prophesied mission of the Servant of Yahweh who proclaims in the First Reading that, as he speaks God’s words to the people, he submits himself to their abuse.
Isaiah’s third “Servant Song”
In the four “Servant Songs” from the book of the prophet Isaiah, God, who revealed His power by creating the earth (Is 40:12-31) and who showed His determination to save humanity by His interventions in human history (Is 41:1-29), then announces a new stage in His divine plan (Is 41:19). That new stage in bringing about His divine plan is to give a special mission to a mysterious figure referred to as the “Servant” of Yahweh” (Is 42:1). The Servant will make known and put into effect God’s plan for the salvation of mankind.
The passage from our reading begins Isaiah’s third “Servant’s Song” and focuses on the Servant himself. The poem/song is in three parts with each part beginning with the words “The Lord Yahweh” (verses 4, 5 and 7), as the Servant speaks directly to us in verses 4-9:
- The first part emphasizes the servant’s submission to the word of God. He is not a self-taught leader with his own ideas; he is instead obedient to the word of the Lord Yahweh. He tells us that he is God’s faithful disciple, teaching the divine word and God’s promise of redemption to a sinful and downtrodden humanity (verse 4).
- The second part (verses 5-6) concerns the suffering he has endured as the Lord’s faithful servant.
- The third part that begins in verse 7 shows the servant’s determination. He suffers in silence not because he is a coward, but because God is with him to help him and to make him strong in the face of persecution. He says that thanks to God’s divine guidance, he teaches as God directs him despite suffering persecution (verses 7-9), and because of his faith and obedience he will endure all persecution since he knows his suffering is part of God’s divine plan.
Image of “Suffering Servant” fulfilled in Jesus Christ
Since the earliest age of the Church Fathers, Christians have seen the image of the “Suffering Servant” fulfilled in Jesus Christ. During His years of ministry, He faithfully taught about the coming of God’s Kingdom (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15; Lk 4:14-15). He did not resist His persecutors’ insults, nor did He turn away from those who beat Him, slapped His face, or spit upon Him (cf. Mt 26:67-68; 27:26-31; Mk 14:65, 15:15; Jn 18:22; 19:1). Finally, they attempted to disgrace Him by crucifying Him like a common criminal (Mt 27:35-38; Mk 15:21-27; Lk 23:26-34, 38; Jn 19:17-24) and a man “condemned by God” because He was hung on a tree (Dt 22:22-23). But He was not put to shame; instead He arose victorious as He prophesied on the third day (Mt 20:17-19; Mk 10:33-34; Lk 18:31-33), having defeated both sin and death (Mt 28:5-6; Mk 16:6; Lk 24:5-8; Jn 20:1-10).
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. titles added.
Lisa St. Romaine
Isaiah’s prophecy can be proclaimed more fully if, as you practice reading aloud, you think about the times you experienced the same emotions! Lisa has suggestions.
Lisa St. Romaine offers lector tips. She is married to Philip St. Romain, M.S., D. Min. Her videos are posted on her YouTube channel every Wednesday for Sunday.
A tough testimonial
Points to consider
I read the third Servant of God passage, a tough testimonial if there was one. How many of us would – would I – continue in the ministry if they booed us?
I might know how to speak to the weary… what? Soothing words? An ancient formula from a liturgical book? Words of advice from some best-selling author? Or perhaps provocative words, wake-up calls, words that will rouse them? But, you know, this is what I do: urge our assembly to listen and pay heed, not just on Passion Sunday but every Sunday. So if I really do that, then maybe I should sound like I mean it. Easter is only a few days away now.
I can’t help noticing the opposition generated by this servant. What is in these words? Sometimes they rouse people to opposition and violent resistance. Does my delivery do that? Does anyone care? I hope they do. Or do they just turn their heads in boredom, waiting for the next amateur to step up to the ambo?
Central point: the open proclamation of the message and the fierce opposition to it, the beating and humiliation. The prophet says they go hand in hand.
Message for our assembly: all true prophets give us sharp testimonials and a grim reminder that words spoken in frankness are not always well received.
I will challenge myself: to capture the sense of boldness and self-assurance of the Servant of God.
SOURCE: LectorWorks.org; Used with permission
The price of fidelity to God
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
The middle part of the book of the prophet Isaiah contains four poems that we now call the songs of the suffering servant. Here the prophet meditates on his sufferings and the price of fidelity to God. The church turns to these poems at this time because Jesus apparently did so at the time of his passion.
In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. They’re about a mysterious figure, who sometimes speaks in the first person, and whom God sometimes addresses. Sometimes the Servant is described as a prophet, sometimes as one whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus’ life.
Today’s is the third Servant Song. On Good Friday we proclaim the fourth, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The others are Isaiah 42:1-9 and Isaiah 49:1-6.
Proclaiming the Passage
Read the passage to the assembly slowly, meditatively, in as “personal” a tone as you can muster. Read it as if you’re the Servant, talking to yourself, trying to remain convinced that the hardship required by fidelity is worth it. Pause before the last sentence, “The Lord God is my help …” Then proclaim the sentence with firm resolution.
Jesus and Isaac: Two Beloved Sons
Jesus is depicted as the fulfillment of many Old Testament types, such as Adam, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Joseph, and so on. In this week’s video see some of the types Jesus is fulfilling in the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, in particular Jesus being a New Isaac.Check out this video with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more.