24 March 2013
Our reading is one of several passages in Second Isaiah (Chapters 40-54) about the “Suffering Servant.” Because he attempts to teach God’s word, the Servant is turned upon, cast out, beaten, spit upon (especially Chapter 53). When one looks at the context of these passages, he can have no doubt that for the original readers the Servant was a metaphor for the body of Jews who remained faithful during their slavery at Babylon, the Jews who preserved their religion. As you know, the Christian tradition and doctrine is to take the entire Old Testament as prophetic of Christ. Read that way, the Servant represents Jesus. There is a strong justification for such an interpretation in the 53:12: the Servant “poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”
In this passage from his letter to the Philippians, Paul recites or possibly sings an early Christian hymn that contrasts the horrid abasement of the human Jesus, dying a shameful death on the cross, with the exaltation of the risen Christ. The hymn contains striking words about how the human Jesus emptied himself of autonomy, giving his entire being to God, including finally his life.