Listen to today’s devo!

Who has believed our message? (Isa. 53:1)

For centuries, Jewish rabbis have believed that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 was the people of Israel themselves, who would suffer intensely at the hands of the rest of the world. The rabbis maintain that their suffering is not meaningless, but somehow redemptive: that both through obvious cruelty and the Jews’ faithful response to that cruelty, God will be displayed to the world for the healing of all.

We Christians see a different picture: that this text refers to Jesus’ unique suffering on behalf of all people. Yet there are many points of connection between the traditional Jewish and Christian understandings. Christ’s faithfulness in the midst of suffering makes him a sort of “true Israel,” a fulfillment of all the Old Testament aspirations for what Israel could be. So, for example, Jesus had to come out of Egypt and spend time in the wilderness before embracing his earthly ministry. We understand his suffering through this lens, suffering in a way that is deeply connected with human suffering but somehow perfect.

We can hardly imagine that God has a purpose for us in the middle of our suffering. All we want to do is escape it. Yet Jesus reminds us that in our suffering there can be healing. At their best, Israel knew it and showed the world. At our best, the church can too.

Let suffering remind us that God has not abandoned us.

Michael Jordan is the dean of the chapel at Houghton College (New York), where he also serves as chair of the department of biblical studies, theology, and philosophy.

© 2020 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.