Wednesday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25)
Few passages of Scripture give better context for appreciating Jesus’ passion than the four so-called Servant Songs from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. These passages are read in the mass every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of Holy Week. They are the work of an unnamed prophet who is called “Second Isaiah” because his writings are attached to those of the great prophet of Judah. Second Isaiah lived in Babylon with other exiled Jews. He recognized a call to preach to the people about the wonderful deliverance God was to work on their behalf.
The Servant Songs comprise an especially noted part of Second Isaiah’s writings. They tell of a completely new kind of Messiah. No longer is he a conqueror of armies; rather, he wins the esteem of the world by bearing evil patiently. In today’s reading the Suffering Servant is pictured as being beaten and humiliated without cursing or striking back. Who exactly is the Suffering Servant? Second-Isaiah does not identify him. Jews are likely to see him as their own nation that has suffered discrimination for centuries. Christians have from the beginning seen the Suffering Servant as a prefiguring of Jesus.
What Second Isaiah says of the Suffering Servant and what Jesus validates in his being betrayed by a disciple and subsequent ordeal we, his followers, should take to heart. We are called to make a presumption against the use of force to accomplish our ends. We are also called to sacrifice our time and energy for the good of others. Such actions reflect the guiding light to the nations, Jesus himself. He is the one whom, at least in part, the world will come to acknowledge as Lord.