Bible Readings: Isaiah 50:4-9 Luke 19:28-38
Our old testament passage from Isaiah this morning is one of the so called ‘servant songs’, taken from the third of four found within the middle portion of the book of Isaiah and like all the others, it speaks of this servant of God. The question is, however, who is this servant…
When we look at the verses closely they do appear to be very personal, and almost, in a sense, auto-biographical. Also, there seems little doubt that here the prophet does appear to be talking about himself and the relationship he has with God. However, the nature of old testament prophecy is such that it is never simply confined to one time or place – and that certainly applies to these verses.
For whilst the prophet may indeed have been a servant of God and whilst all of this may have applied to him, there is no doubt that there are also distinctive Messianic overtones within these verses and that the ultimate servant we are looking at here is Jesus himself. Mocked, beaten, accused, condemned, but never disgraced and vindicated at all times by his Father in heaven.
Of course Jesus knew that he must endure all of this and more. He knew that he must be tortured and then crucified, but he did not hide his face. Indeed not only did Jesus refuse to hide his face, He boldly put himself out in the open that all of these things might come to pass.
The story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday is one that we all know and love, and as we read these verses again and again we can almost imagine ourselves being there. In amongst the heaving crowds, waving our palm leaves and joining in on the chorus of Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
It’s a wonderful image of Jesus in all his glory and all his majesty.
However, I wonder how often, if at all, we have taken time out to consider what a glorious act of defiance and courage Jesus demonstrated that day. Because let’s not forget, by now he was effectively a wanted man; a man with a price on his head, so to speak; a man whom the authorities were just waiting to seize at the earliest opportunity. Anyone else in such a position might have chosen to slip into the city quietly, doing everything possible to avoid attracting attention to themselves – but not Jesus.
He enters the city in such a way that he is the centre of attraction, the focus is very much on Him as he places himself on the centre stage. And of course it was no accident that things happened in this way, nor was it any sudden or impulsive action. This was all carefully planned by Jesus.
And the more we stop to consider this, the more we come to realise how breath taking all of this was. That a man who was now regarded as an ‘outlaw’ by the authorities should enter the city in such a defiant manner. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the sheer courage of Jesus that we witness in this behaviour. Yet it is perhaps something that we very seldom stop to consider.
As Christians we rightly think of Jesus as the Son of the living God, part of the Holy Trinity, a divine being – and he was and is, but Jesus was also fully human. He felt pain in the way that we do, he suffered as we do and he went through all the many emotions that we do – and he was tempted in the way that we are.
Remember after his time in the desert, when the devil failed to tempt Jesus to join him – Satan left Jesus until an opportune time. Here we have such a time. Who really wants to be put to death in such a horrific manner, especially at such a young age and especially when you know you have done nothing wrong.
Who wouldn’t be tempted to keep our heads down and to look for an easy way out of the situation we now found ourselves in. To perhaps even run away from all the controversy, all the hysteria and all the danger. It would perhaps be the most natural thing in the world for any of us to do.
But Jesus knew what his mission was. He knew why God had sent him. He knew exactly what he had to do. And he had the courage to do so. No hiding away, no flinching from his mission. Nothing or no-one could stop him from serving God in the way he had be chosen to do.
But what about us today?…
None of us here today has been called to serve God in the way that Jesus did, our mission is nothing at all like His – how could it be? Yet we have all been called by God, called to serve Him as disciples of Jesus, as part of His Church here on earth.
And for the most part we all seek to do that in the way that we live our lives each day, as we bear witness to Christ and his message in all that we say and do. However, sometimes serving God isn’t quite as simple and straightforward as that, sometimes bearing witness to Christ involves more than this. Sometimes we are called to stand firm, to speak out, to proclaim the Gospel message against all the odds.
The question is, do we have the courage to do so, or do we look for an easy way out.
Serving God and bearing witness to Christ never has been and never will be easy and we will all face difficult times as we seek to do so. And sometimes we will be intimidated, we will be confronted, we will be mocked and we will be ridiculed. We will be told that any arguments we put forward against any situation based on the gospel message are nonsense. Because the Gospel message is nonsense and not relevant in our modern day society.
Yet the reality is that this in itself is absolute nonsense. The Gospel message is as relevant today as it has always been – and always will be. People still suffer today in the way that they did back then and people are still as much in need today as they were back then. We still have social disorder, poverty and depravation, we still have corruption and injustice, we still have greed, bitterness and enmity. The times may have changed, the peoples may have changed, but the inherent problems within humanity still remain the same.
And for all the excuses and reasons we might give, the harsh reality is that so much of this happens because people don’t believe that the Gospel message is relevant today. If those in positions of power and authority paid more attention to the teachings and example found in the Word of God, then maybe, just maybe things just wouldn’t be so bad.
Which is why we need to have the courage of our faith to hold on to that faith and to proclaim it whenever we get the opportunity to do so. Yes, we will be tempted to hide away, to stay quiet and do nothing, to go with the flow and accept the status quo. However, the question is, is that what Jesus would do?
So as we begin this holiest of weeks, as we remember Jesus final, faithful, defiant and courageous journey to the cross. Let’s do all we can to do as he did. Let’s bring our faith out into the open whenever we can, in defiance of the world around us, speaking out in the name of Christ and boldly witnessing to him in all we say and do. For just as he was with the suffering servant, just as he was with his own dear Son, so God will always be with us when we serve him in this way.
And he will help us to find the courage that we need…