Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our Old Testament passage from Isaiah 50 is easily read as a description of Jesus' humiliation. The process of his trial by the Romans was not terribly unusual. To urge people to recant of their alleged criminal activity, Romans would frequently beat, whip, and otherwise humiliate prisoners. This is precisely what happened to Jesus, as the soldiers dressed him like a king, mockingly called him the king of the Jews, and whipped him. Their expectation may well have been that he would quickly confess that he was not the king of the Jews, that he was an imposter, and that he would never again be willing to face such a threat. Though it would strike many in the modern world, especially in the United States, as a barbaric treatment, it was fairly effective at discouraging people from all sorts of criminal and seditious activity. Isaiah 50 adds to the description we have in the Gospels the idea of having one's beard pulled out, an activity which in itself would probably make me give up on virtually any criminal ideas I had in mind. Really, don't pull out my beard!
Jesus willingly gave himself over to torture, even though, as he said, he could command angels and they would rescue him if he desired.
Jesus didn't want to be rescued from the death that you and I deserve. He gave himself over to whipping, disgrace, and spitting. Maybe his beard was even pulled out. We don't know for certain.
This seems well and good, at least painless, from my perspective. Nobody is currently trying to arrest me, imprison me, or whip me. Mocking and even spitting are easily imaginable, but I know I can withstand that.
In verses 8-9 the prophet speaks of it all happening, and the Lord standing with him. Maybe we need to let that sink in a little bit.
No matter what we might endure for the name of Jesus, God will stand with us. Jesus was unafraid of a whipping that stripped a good bit of the flesh off his back. He withstood people beating a crown of thorns into his head. He was dressed in a robe, no doubt very roughly, after being whipped. He was mocked and scorned. And he didn't even deserve it, not one bit of it.
The Christian can take comfort from this passage. No matter the animosity that we may face in this lifetime, Jesus has dealt with it. He will in no way abandon his people. Though they kill us, we can have confidence, not only that Jesus has endured the same, but that he endured it without deserving it, for our sake, and has promised to be with us through it all.
What if they take us? What if they imprison us? What if they kill us? Jesus has died on our behalf and has risen from the dead.
There's really nothing that Jesus has not done on behalf of his people. And he promises to stand with us through whatever we will face. This is the confidence of the Christian. This is an unshakable hope.
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