Wednesday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25)
Humiliation seldom sinks lower than to have another spit in one’s face. Spittle may transmit disease. More than that, spitting is a universal sign of contempt. One account of a particularly gruesome display of hatred tells of prison gang members spitting razor blades to cut up the opponent’s face even before a fight begins.
In the first reading today the Suffering Servant speaks of giving his face to being spit upon. Conscious of this reference, Mark’s passion narrative underscores how both Jews and Romans spit on Jesus. Jesus is seen as the incarnation of the Suffering Servant whose identity is left obscure in Isaiah’s prophecy.
There are four “Suffering Servant Songs.” Each gives the portrait of the righteous man who takes upon himself the sins of the world. He not only speaks words of comfort to the oppressed; he also listens to their cries. He establishes justice but not with a sword that will bring grief to a wife or parents. Indeed, he heals others’ defects by bearing the penalties incurred by their sins. Who but Jesus has fulfilled this character description completely?