Thursday, November 30, 2017
To what end suffering?
Jesus’ cry of dereliction on the cross was not a one-off quotation from a psalm of lament. Both Jeremiah and Jesus were remembered as servants of God who “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death” (Heb 5:7; cf. Jer 17:14). When under persecution, however, we notice a first major difference. Jeremiah’s laments frequently move toward prayers against the enemies, while Jesus put his teaching on “love your enemies” into practice by interceding for them. Moreover, at no point in Jeremiah’s ministry, as far as I can tell, does it occur to the prophet that his mediatory suffering before God serves any deeper purpose. In the case of Jesus, however, there is good reason to believe that he understood his suffering as being vicarious. Jesus says that he came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Between the death of Jesus and the suffering of Jeremiah stands the poem of the suffering servant. We have seen that Isaiah 53 in particular gives expression to something unprecedented in the Old Testament: the enabling of healing and new life through the substitutionary suffering of another. It is widely agreed that Jesus understood his forthcoming death in the light of the suffering servant (cf. Isa 53:10–12).—Standing in the Breach, pages 414–15