Bible Tuesday for Sunday, October 18, 2015
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb* with the rich,*
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.*
When you make his life an offering for sin,*
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light;*
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one,* my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
In my conversations with Jewish colleagues, this passage is one of the most important points of diversion between us. Christians universally interpret this passage as a description of Jesus. Obviously, Jewish scholars disagree. In fact, this passage is greatly debated within the Jewish community and has been for over 2000 years.
The entirety of Isaiah does not point to one person who is Messiah. Certainly Christians interpret many passages in Isaiah as pointing to Jesus, while the original authors of the prophetic books also were addressing events current to them. Those for whom Isaiah was first written and spoken, and all Jews since then ask, “Who is the suffering servant?” Over the centuries, Jewish scholars have developed some theories.
This passage refers to the faithful remnant of Israel. It is common in the prophetic books to refer to one person while meaning the whole people of God or a particular group of Jews. It is also common throughout the Hebrew Scriptures to read about the faithful minority suffering with the adulterous majority.
Or this passage could refer to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah did suffer greatly at the hands of the Israelites in and around Jerusalem, and ended up exiled in Egypt for a while. Jeremiah was absolutely righteous but suffered greatly with his fellow Israelites.
Or, this passage could refer to Moses. The books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy certain portray Moses as suffering greatly at the hands of the unfaithful, whining Israelites.
This passage was also a key point of departure between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. At the center of the argument is the second line of verse 10. “He shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.” This can also be translated, “He might see offspring and have long life, and that through him the Lord’s purpose might prosper.” This passage in its original Hebrew can be understood as referring to resurrection from the dead, or merely as self sacrifice to make way for prosperity of one’s offspring. The Pharisees understood it to refer to resurrection and the Sadducees did not.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,*
the Most High your dwelling-place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
This is the psalm which inspired the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings”. The portions of this psalm selected for this week illustrate first the speaker, who admonishes the faithful to remain so by stating the benefits of their faithful, and then God, who promises rescue, honor, and long life to those who remain devoted to God.
It is also from this psalm, and a couple other passages in the Bible that snake handling within the Christian community developed. This is not a recent phenomena, but developed within a sect of very early Christians who used snake handling as proof that the Holy Spirit was with them, because it was protecting the handling from being bitten. In the US, snake handling is done within certain sects of the Pentecostal Church.
Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
6as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus* offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
This is a very unLutheran way of thinking about the priesthood. While the author of Hebrews is describing the priesthood of Israel, to which a person was appointed. The priest had to offer sacrifices to purify himself before he could offer gifts and sacrifices for the people. The priest serves as a mediator between God and the people, just as Moses was. The Israelites were afraid to speak with God directly so Moses did, and then told the people what God said.
Because Jesus is fully human and fully divine, Jesus and we have direct communication so a mediating priest is no longer necessary. “I and the Father are one,” says Jesus in the gospel of John. When we relate to Jesus, we are relating to God.
So then, why do we have pastors? Luther taught that we have pastors “for good order.” Pastors are just laypeople who are educated in the scriptures and the history and traditions of the faith, and trained in teaching, preaching, and administration of the sacraments. Pastors don’t offer sacrifices for purification before worship services because, through baptism, pastors are just as clean as all other baptized. In the Lutheran Church, pastors are not ordained for life at their seminary graduation services, but rather ordained in congregations or synod gatherings to symbolize it is the people that raised up these folks to be pastors. As long as the pastor has a calling/congregation to serve, that person continues as a pastor; not ordained for life, but only for as long as service is needed.
The “order of Melchizedek” is found only in the book of Hebrews. When Abraham and Sarah were traveling from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan, they came upon a tribe of people who hosted them for a bit. These people had a priest who “served the Most High God” whose name was Melchizedek. No other description of this priest or the religion he practiced is given in the Bible but the title Most High God refers to no other god but Yahweh throughout the entire Bible. Abraham didn’t even have a religion, per se, certainly no prescribed rites or rituals to be done with Yahweh, but Melchizedek is a priest of God for his tribe. Melchizedek blesses Abraham in the name of the Most High God before Abraham and Sarah set out again.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’36And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ 37And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ 38But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ 39They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
The opening verses of this passage give a great example of what the disciples thought of Jesus. What a lesson in patronage! James and John have followed Jesus, did what he told them, learned (sort of) what he taught them, and now it is payback time. They want the prime cabinet positions. That Jesus didn’t call down lightening from heaven and fry them on the spot a miracle in itself!
These disciples have the gall to make demands of Jesus right after Jesus tells this disciples for the third and final time that he is heading to Jerusalem to suffer and die there. James’ and John’s request then is all the more ironic and illustrative complete incomprehension of the Son of Man.
Jesus’ reaction is to tell James and John that they do not know what they are asking. Don’t they? They want to share in Jesus’ power and in Jesus’ glory. What they don’t know is how much it will cost them to get it. As Jesus continues his scolding, he says as much. “The cup I drink, you will drink and the baptism with which I am baptized, you will also be baptized.”