Speaking Of Life 5019 │ Always At Your Side
When we’re faced with a difficult next step, whether it’s our health, our job, or our family situation, we often feel alone. How can we approach difficulties, including suffering, with courage and hope? We can look to our Elder Brother Jesus and how he entered into our suffering during Holy Week – enduring what none of us could.
Today is Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday. While we typically focus on Jesus riding on a donkey’s colt and being welcomed with cries of “Hosanna!,” another important aspect of this day in the liturgical calendar is Jesus’ purpose as he entered Jerusalem. In fact, the word passion means “to suffer.”
Jesus was resolute and steadfast, knowing the suffering that lay ahead of him. We can learn more about his desire and the reason for his courage and hope by studying the suffering servant poems found in the book of Isaiah. Though these poems were written to encourage the Israelites in the Babylonian exile, we can see parallels with Jesus’ suffering during Holy Week. Today we’ll focus on the third poem in Isaiah 50:
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
Isaiah 50:4-9 (NRSV)
The first part of the poem shows us that not only did Jesus have his ear attuned to what God was saying, but he also took time to “encourage tired people.” In other words, Jesus noticed others around him were tired, maybe suffering, and in need of comfort and inspiration. Even though he knew what he was facing, Jesus used his “well-taught tongue” to help others. Let’s continue reading:
The Lord has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
Isaiah 50:5-6 (NRSV)
Jesus knew his suffering was only part of a bigger story; it wasn’t the whole story. Notice that when he was taking the next difficult step, the poem doesn’t say he wasn’t afraid. It says that he did not turn backward, and did not hide his face from insults. This is the definition of courage: being afraid and yet taking the next right step. Where did Jesus’s courage come from? Let’s find the answer in the last few verses:
The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
Isaiah 50:7-9a (NRSV)
As Jesus faced the events of Holy Week, we can learn from Isaiah’s third servant poem that the Lord God, never left his side. “Look!” Isaiah says. “It is the Lord God who helps me.” Jesus had courage and hope during the most difficult week of his human life because God never left his side.
Isaiah’s servant poems give us a behind-the-scenes look at the Son of God’s desire as he faced suffering beyond what we can imagine. We can understand how Jesus was sustained by God’s presence and endured the cross because his compassion compelled him to take on suffering and bring it to redemption.
When we face adversity ourselves, we can be assured the Lord God will be with us. Whether you’re facing difficulties, or in a peaceful place, may you be confident of the Father, Son, and Spirit’s constant presence right here, right now, always at your side.
I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.