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On The Upper Room Discourse Re-Release For Lent 2024

April 5

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Isaiah 53:1-3

The prophet Isaiah marvels in today’s text that so few people believed Jesus when he came bringing them salvation. Twice Isaiah says that God’s Suffering Servant was “despised” by the people. When the Lord rolled up his sleeve to reveal his arm of salvation, he was met with ridicule and judged to be “of no account.”

In vivid, poetic imagery Isaiah says that the Servant seemed to the people as “a young plant.” The Hebrew word here is literally, “a sucker“, the kind of shoot that gardeners clip off because they “suck” the life and nourishment from the tree. So the people viewed Jesus as a worthless shoot, as one who drained life from the community.

Isaiah carries forward his garden imagery and says that Jesus appeared to the people “as a root out of dry ground.” In the hot, arid Judean landscape everything would be against this little root pushing up out “dry ground.” Surely the root would just wither and die. Everything seemed to be against Jesus from the very beginning. Born into a cattle shed and hunted down by Herod’s soldiers, the people stood against him.

The crowds did not think that Jesus looked the way Messiah was supposed to look, as “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Jesus was sold for thirty pieces by his trusted friend, and at his death was deserted by the others: “he was a man of suffering and acquitted with infirmity

The old spiritual we sing got it right: “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.” The New Testament says that Jesus does understand what you are going through and that he gave his life for you: “Jesus had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

He whom none may touch is seized;
He who looses Adam from the curse is bound.
He who tries the hearts and inner thoughts of man is unjustly brought to trial;
He who closed the abyss is shut in prison.
He, before who the powers of heaven stand trembling, stands before Pilate;
The Creator is struck by the hands of his creature.
He who comes to judge the living and the dead is condemned to the cross.
The destroyer of hell is enclosed in a tomb.
O thou who dost endure all things in thy tender love,
Who has saved all men from the curse,
O long-suffering Lord, glory to thee.

(Vespers for Good Friday, Greek Orthodox Church)


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