ISAIAH 53:4-12


On September 12th of this year, we studied the third of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs”, as they are called.  To refresh your memory, I have copied the background paragraphs from that study below.

The year is ca. 550 BC. The People of God are in exile in Babylon.  Isaiah writes to encourage God’s people to be strong in the face of trials.  A “Servant of Yahweh” appears in Isaiah’s writings. Four “songs” are written. 

Song Isaiah Theme
1 42:1-6 He will bring justice to the nations
2 49:1-6 I make you a light to the nations
3 50:4-9 My back to those who beat me
4 52:13-53:12 Bruised for our iniquities

This servant is never identified by Isaiah.  Biblical scholars have debated hotly as to who this might be.  Several answers are possible.  But let’s look at the bible passage for today, and leave the “who” for later.  T

This week, we look at the fourth of these songs. 


Rather than follow our usual format, I am going to focus on some key phrases.  This song was written about this unnamed “suffering servant”. I will refer to him as “the servant” here.  At the end, we will discuss who this might be.

  1. Phrases like “borne our infirmities”, “carried our diseases”, “wounded for our transgressions” indicate that the servant has shouldered the burdens of many.  The servant takes them willingly, and silently.  Verse 10 states that his life will be an offering for sin. 
  2. His death is a “perversion of justice”.  He stands silently before his accuser. 
  3. In the end, he gets his reward.  He “divides the spoil with the strong”, and the Lord will allot him a portion with the great.
  4. He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.


It did not take long for Jesus’ disciples to recognize how closely this sounded Jesus.  It helped them to see God’s master plan, which was carried out by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. 

So now, we must ask ourselves “Was Isaiah writing about Jesus or not?”

At this point, we need to get into a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” discussion.

First, the chicken.  Some say that Isaiah was a prophet, and he was writing this prophecy about the coming Messiah.  He was prophesizing about Jesus.  It certainly sounds like Jesus.  End of story. But not so fast.  Isaiah wrote these words about 550 years before Jesus was born.  Isaiah certainly knew nothing about Jesus.  So, did he write down something he did not understand?  Just as importantly, what would compel the people of God to preserve these words for over 500 years, if they did not make sense to them? Imagine if Billy Graham had a vision from God, and he wrote it into a book.  He tells us that it doesn’t make sense now, but we should keep reading it. In 500 years it will make sense to those people, but not to you.  Do you think that we would carefully preserve that writing for 500 years?  I don’t think so. 

Now, the egg.  God talks to people in need.  In Isaiah’s time, the people were in exile in Babylon.  People suffered.  God gave them inspiration through Isaiah.  Later on, more than once, the people of God suffered for their faith. Isaiah’s words would be a source of strength to those suffering for their faith.  Jesus most certainly was familiar with these writings of Isaiah.  Through Isaiah, God revealed the redemptive quality of silent suffering servitude.  This was a new concept for his chosen people.  God the Father gave these words to Isaiah because He believes them to be the way we should all behave in the face of adversity, especially when our faith is challenged.  It only makes sense that Jesus would behave in this most godly way.  Were these words written about Jesus?  Yes.  But they are also written for our instruction.  If we all behaved like this, the world would be a much different place, wouldn’t it?


Since we are children of God, we are called to act like Jesus in the world we live in.  Are we prepared to be a Suffering Servant, too?


HEBREWS 5:1-10


The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians.  It explains the meaning of Jesus’ life within a Jewish context.  Understanding two things will help us to understand this passage better.

A high priest intercedes for the people to God for the atonement of their sins.  He does this once a year on Yom Kippur.  There is only one high priest, and atonement is only given once per year.  Also, there were at least two requirements to become a Jewish priest.  First, one must be borne of the house of Levi.  Second, one must belong to the priestly guild.  Not all Levites were priests, but all priests were Levites.


  • The first part of today’s passage provides us a good description of the duties of a high priest. (vv. 1-4)
  • Jesus has already been called our high priest in Hebrews four times, by the time we get to today’s reading.  We are told that God appointed him our high priest, when He said “Your are my Son, today I have begotten you”. This sounds like what God said at Jesus’ baptism and at his transfiguration, sort of. But this is also a direct quote from Psalm 2:7.  Next the writer of Hebrews quotes God as saying “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”  This is a quote from Psalms 110:4.  I’ll explain this in the takeaway.
  • Being our high priest, he offered prayers to his Father for us.  The most detailed account of this is found in John 17, which we call Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.  (v. 7)
  • Jesus obeyed the Father, and suffered for our sake.  (v. 8)
  • We are to obey the Son, receiving eternal life in doing so. (v. 9)
  • Jesus has the authority to do all this, because his is our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.  (v. 10)


Jesus was from the house of Benjamin, like King David.  He was not a Levite.  Because he was not a Levite, he could not belong to the priestly guild.  I imagine that when the writer of Hebrews called Jesus our high priest, many were saying “Now just you hold on there!  How is this possible?  He doesn’t meet the two basic requirements!”  Verses 4-10 are the answer to this question: 

  1. God claimed Jesus as his own at his baptism and transfiguration.
  2. God called Jesus our high priest forever, by the order of Melchizedek. 

So who was this Melchizedek dude?  Genesis 14:17-20 holds the answer.  Long before Moses, Aaron and the Levites, Abram went to the holy city of Salem (not the one near Raleigh, NC).  The king of Salem was also a high priest in that holy city.  His name was Melchizedek.  He blessed Abram.  Abram then gave him a tenth of his possessions as benevolence for the blessing. Since God called Jesus to the priesthood by the order of Melchizedek, He sort of cancelled out the other requirements, I guess. 

Jesus’ obedience to the will of his Father perfected him, so that he could serve to be our Lord.  He demonstrated this obedience and perfection in living as a model of the godly life.  (This model is spelled out in today’s reading from Isaiah.)  Jesus  did an awesome job of living his life to this model.  As children of God, we are called to do likewise.

MARK 10:35-45


All through Mark’s gospel, the disciples don’t seem to get it.  At times, they actually act a little stupid.  Today’s lesson is a classic example of this.  It is also a classic example of Jesus love and patience with these two obnoxious disciples.


  • James and John are brothers.  They must have been trouble, because Jesus called them “the sons of thunder”.  They approach Jesus and ask a bold question. (v. 35)
  • Jesus says “Yeah, what do you want?”  [In my version] In this version, he also is thinking “This ought to be good.” (v. 36)
  • They have the audacity to ask Jesus for the two highest power positions, when Jesus is “in his glory”.  By “glory”, they’re talking about when Jesus is the Messiah-king, after they boot the Romans out of Israel.  Sitting to the left and right of the king would be the two top positions in the king’s court.  They really were clueless, weren’t they?  (v. 37)
  • Jesus’ response is amazing.  He is loving and patient, but corrects their thinking.  Keep in mind that he has told them three times that he would suffer and die. Actually, the third time occurs immediately before this passage!  Will they “drink the cup” that he will drink?  Yes, they will indeed.  But who sits where is not up to Jesus, but the Father.  (vv. 38-40)
  • The other ten apostles got upset when they heard about this request.  Wouldn’t you be upset?  But Jesus gathers them all together, and gives them (and us) a God-lesson. He tells them to forget about “who’s on top”, and start fighting to be on the bottom—to be a servant-slave to all. (vv. 41-45)


Being a servant-slave to all is at the heart of what it means to think and act like a child of God.  To love, teach, feed, heal, and give of oneself-- this is what Jesus did.  This is what God wants us all to do. 


James and John clearly did not “get it”.  They were thinking in earthly terms, not divine.  Are we so different?  We want to grab the free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life, but balk at being a slave to all and loving our enemies.  Are the details of living a Christian life like a buffet line, or is it a package deal? Can we “pick the cherries”, and skip the tough stuff?  Or, does the cost of discipleship require us to take the whole package?