Blog 18: Isaiah 52:13-53:12. First Sunday of Lent
The suffering servant
Sunday 17 February 2013 11.00am

This passage is, after Psalm 23, perhaps the best known in all of the Old Testament. Its depiction of the suffering servant so clearly fits the passion of Christ that it is used again and again in Lent, Holy Week and Easter. And rightly so for it is by the inspiration of the Spirit a wonderful exposition of not only what happened to the Christ but of its significance for us.

But the simplicity of that hides the enormous complexity of the identity of the ‘original’ suffering servant, about whom this passage was written and whose sufferings and death(?) are seen as redemptive.

The possibilities are many but the two most likely are:

Zerubbabel. He led the second return from exile and his success in rallying the people to rebuild the temple raised the hostility of the local people and the governor. Indeed the building had to be halted.[1] The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were probably more responsible for the hostility but Zerubbabel paid the price – almost certainly he was executed before Darius, who had been consulted, could indicate his support for both Zerubbabel and the rebuilding.

Israel itself. This is the account of the pain inflicted by all those who oppose the re-building and who harry them without cause at every step.

There are other possibilities including those who contend that the servant in this passage is Darius and the one who suffers someone completely different.

For my part I am content that whatever its origin, we have the most sublime prophetic account of the essence of what God has done for us in and through the sufferings of his Son.

Let us stand before it in awe.


[1] See Ezra chapter 4.