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Suffering Servant Part 1

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The Suffering Servant: Part One.

Visions of the messiah: common view, with few exceptions whether Jewish or Christian B an all conquering hero who will rid the people of their enemies and problems.

People in the time of Christ looked with eagerness for such a messiah, as they continued to do for the next hundred years until the Romans destroyed the forces of Simon bar Kokhba in 135 CE. The result, the end of a Jewish state, Jerusalem was plowed, and an edict established banning Jews from entering the city.  Simon=s name was son of the star, a reference to Numbers 24:17 and the prophecy of Balaam about the star from Jacob rising.  R. Akiva proclaimed him a Messiah.  Should have heeded Gamaliel’s message in Acts 5!

That was not the image of a messiah that the Father and the Word had in mind when planning to send Jesus as the Messiah.  Scholars look at the Gospels and see Jesus=s messianic claims and believe he failed in his attempt.  They then see the disciples trying to create a new model of the Messiah to rescue Jesus=s abortive attempt.  Taking scriptures from Isaiah, they created a model of a Suffering Servant to replace the all conquering hero ideal.  These include Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6, 50: 4-11; 52:13B 53:12.

The disciples looked upon Jesus as the Messiah.  The Messiah was an anointed one, the deliverer from the problems that people faced in the servitude of other nations.  Commonly they were Priests or Kings, or in some unique instances sought to fill both roles as had the Hasmonean kings who preceded Herod.  Yet they had all gone and relief was never in sight.  Jesus at least was a son of David.

It is instructive to see the perspective of the disciples to a Messiah.  Luke records in Acts 1, that the disciples concern was about Jesus restoring the kingdom to Israel.  Even following the resurrection, the role of the Messiah for them was to establish a physical kingdom to provide immediate relief for the people.

Subsequent AMessiah=s@, either in the Jewish domain or in the world of Christendom always gravitated to the same ideas.  Eusebius saw the Emperor Constantine as such a messiah.  A king and priest combined ruling over the kingdom of God on earth.  When we talk of Messiahs, the immediate concept is of power B unlimited power.

Passover is approaching quickly and as we prepare we will hear numerous times in sermons about the instruction of Jesus to His disciples, especially as He instructed them to love one another as he had loved them.  Yet what is involved in the loving of your neighbor as your self, to the point of giving your life for them. Is there an element to this that is easily overlooked?

That model of a Messiah that I=ve outlined, that people seek for, was not the role that Jesus Christ came to fulfill. As we approach the Passover we are reminded all to quickly of the other role of the Messiah B a servant. Yet a servant with power!

Matthew 28:18 AAll authority has been given me in heaven and on earth.@ Set off against the very beginning of Jesus= ministry with the temptation by Satan. Mark=s Gospel follows Matthew and builds on the statement of Jesus.  In terms of the temptation no direct answer is provided.  Who wins the battle B is it a draw or a contested decision?  Mark uses a literary device to make us read on or listen attentively to find out what really did happen. 

The writers of the Gospels chose miracles to include in there accounts that spoke to the overall lesson they were seeking to convey.  Mark does the same.  As a result, it doesn=t take long to find out about the temptation.  Jesus goes out and calls men to follow him as disciples (vvs. 16-20). He teaches with authority or power. The second miracle is casting out a demon (vvs.21-28). Healings followed!  That means that Jesus really did have the power that Matthew records in 28:18.  The record goes on over the next few chapters showing in what manner Jesus had power.  The healing of sickness, and diseases, the forgiving of sins (2:5) all fall within the range of Jesus power.  In fact nothing falls outside of it.  Wind and sea could be stilled (4:35-41). People could be resurrected to life (5.21-43) Food could be multiplied to feed multitudes, (6:30-44). Power could be delegated to the disciples (6:7-13). Nothing was outside his control.  Mark is eager for us to see this in perspective and he assembles all of these instances where Jesus is able to exercise power over every situation in a supernatural manner.

Mark 11.28 the leaders want to know on whose authority Jesus performs miracles and teaches.

For Mark or Apostle Peter on whose behalf he wrote, Jesus ministry was a reordering of power.  But what is unique about Jesus=s reordering of power?  It was never for his own benefit.  It was always for the benefit of others.  As Isaiah recorded in what is also considered part of the Servant Songs:

AThe Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, " (Isaiah 61:1-2, NKJV)

So here we have a Messiah who has real power. The catalogue that Mark provides is unequaled in human history.

This aspect of power being exercised for the benefit of others is picked up as well by John in his Gospel account.

John 13 and foot washing.  Written in a different environment. 

Look at our situation in the western world. In coming to Passover these days most people have washed their feet already, clipped their toe nails, put on fresh socks, or hose in preparation for the service.  The task of washing the soft feet is no real chore.  It=s a different experience: its not the sort of thing we do for one another every day.  Yet God wants us to learn a lesson from it.  In other parts of the world, brethren can arrive at Passover in a different situation. Their feet get dirty just getting to the service.  In the 70's there was a craze for platform shoes.  Two inch thick soles.  I suddenly found out that they weren=t just a fashion statement.  They were a necessity in places like Lagos in Nigeria to keep your feet out of the mud and muck.  Our brethren=s feet in that type of environ at Passover can be dirty.  Their feet often feel like hard weathered leather, because they haven=t been cosseted in well made shoes.  Much of their lives are spent barefooted, working in fields, or walking. They are gnarled and calloused. Unlike the water discarded here at Passover which probably has no more that a few hairs and lint to indicate it has been used, the water at the end of the service is red with dirt or clay.  Their circumstances are more like those experienced in the days of Jesus and the disciples.  Not advocating that we introduce a mud bath as part of the footwashing.  We have to learn the lesson in the environment in which we live.

Notice what happens:

Girds himself: a sign of a servant

Washes feet of all twelve

If I your Lord and master have washed your feet you do likewise!  Not a pleasant job.  It was the most debased job for a servant.

Mekilta de Rabbi Ishmael said that a Hebrew slave wasn=t to wash feet B only a gentile slave could do this.  Ishmael based his reasoning on Exodus 21 and the instructions on having a Hebrew slave.

     ANow these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him." (Exodus 21:1-3, NKJV)

Six years he Shall Serve: I might understand this to mean in any kind of service, but Scripture says: Thou shalt not make him serve as a bondservant@ (Lev. 25.39). Hence the sages said: A Hebrew slave must not wash the feet of his master, nor put his shoes on him, not carry his things before him when going to the bathhouse, nor support him by the hips when ascending steps, not carry him in a litter or a chair or a sedan chair as slaves do.  For it is said: ABut over your brethren the children of Israel ye shall not rule, one over another, with rigour@ (ibid., v. 46). . . .

To have a Hebrew slave to wash a masters feet was Aruling over him with rigour@. It was considered demeaning to wash feet -- The most base of jobs.  Jesus undertook the task that he could not require of them as his servants. It could only be required of a gentile servant.  Yet notice what he did. He then bound them as brethren to wash each others feet:

"So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ADo you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another=s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:12-17, NKJV)

So Jesus presented this situation of foot washing in a master/servant relationship.

Yet there was another aspect as well.  To do this willing for another represented a sign of respect for another person.  We find in Genesis the aspect of foot washing as a matter of hospitality (Genesis 18:4, 19:2, 24:32, 43:24).  The same held true in the days of Jesus.  Simon failed to provide water to wash his guests feet (Luke 7:36-50). Note verses 44-47

"Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ADo you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.@" (Luke 7:44-47, NKJV)

No water, no kiss, no oil!  All were signs of respect for another.  But it goes further.  We can read in other Jewish literature of this time that idea that the voluntary washing of anothers feet was an act of love. This is the environment in which John frames Christ=s actions. 

" Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (John 13:1, NKJV)

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.@" (John 13:34-35, NKJV)

In a Jewish work written in the first centuries we have the portrayal of Joseph and his wife Aseneth.

Peter=s protest at Jesus=s actions are perhaps more understandable in light of the role that Jesus was playing.  At best he probably thought he should be doing it for him.  Notice Jesus answer to his protestations.  If he didn=t he had Ano part with@ Jesus (v. 8).  The word that is translated as Apart@ is normally used in terms of geographical territory.  It would apply to an inheritance or possession.  The same term is used to translate the Hebrew word used to describe the inheritances of the tribes when they were to possess the land.  The Levities had no Apart@ in the land as it was divided between the tribes.  The Eternal was to be their part:

"Then the Lord said to Aaron: You shall have no allotment in their land, nor shall you have any share among them; I am your share and your possession among the Israelites." (Numbers 18:20, NRSV)


So Jesus was stating that involvement in this servant act was essential to inherit the Kingdom. To have a part in the Kingdom of God we need to learn to serve one another.  It is an essential part of loving the other which involves seeking anothers benefit.  Inheriting the Kingdom means as well to have a relationship with the Father.  It is fascinating that the priesthood and the Levities serving in the tabernacle or the temple needed to wash their feet and hands as a precondition to their acts of service.

"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: AYou shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to themCto him and his descendants throughout their generations.@" (Exodus 30:17-21, NKJV)

This was an essential act for the priests and levities to continue having the Eternal as their part. The same element of life and death is expressed by Jesus

This perhaps provides a link to a statement in Hebrews10:19

"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:19-25, NKJV)

It is easy to think of the body being washed as a reference to baptism.  But we are talking about the tabernacle here and the washing of the hands and feet was an essential requirement to have the relationship with God that the writer is expressing.

Humanity loves to think of Messiahs as rulers.  But all those who have and will see themselves in that role have never learned to serve as a Messiah should.  Jesus Christ came the first time to serve humanity in a profound way.  He wants us to learn to serve by that example and the practice of foot washing is a means by which we can start to learn that attitude.

"This is My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen one, in whom I delight. I have put My spirit upon him, He shall teach the true way to the nations. He shall not cry out or shout aloud, Or make his voice heard in the streets. He shall not break even a bruised reed, Or snuff out even a dim wick. He shall bring forth the true way. He shall not grow dim or be bruised Till he has established the true way on earth; And the coastlands shall await his teaching." (Isaiah 42:1-4, Tanakh)

We can=t be entrusted to rule until we have learned to serve others in the most profound way.  The end result of a true servant of God ruling is so dramatically different.  In learning to serve, one learns to put the needs of others before yourself.

Rulership doesn=t then exist for power or control but for the benefit of others.  Even in the position of being a ruler, you still seek to serve others.

!! Aligned Hits In Context

lemma: marks (ἐξουσία)

The ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament

102 occurrences

Matt 21:27 …them, “Neither will I tell you by what   authority  I do these things.
Matt 28:18 …And Jesus came and said to them, “ All   authority  in heaven and on earth has been …
Mark 1:22 …for he taught them as one who had   authority,  and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:27 …saying, “What is this? A new teaching with   authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and …
Mark 2:10 …may know that the Son of Man has   authority  on earth to forgive sins”— he said …
Mark 3:15 and have   authority  to cast out demons.
Mark 6:7 …them out two by two, and gave them   authority  over the unclean spirits.
Mark 11:28 … and they said to him, “By what   authority  are you doing these things, or who …
  …doing these things, or who gave you this   authority  to do them?”
Mark 11:29 …me, and I will tell you by what   authority  I do these things.
Mark 11:33 …them, “Neither will I tell you by what   authority  I do these things.”
Mark 13:34 …he leaves home and puts his servants in   charge,  each with his work, and commands the …
Luke 4:6 …him, “To you I will give all this   authority  and their glory, for it has been …
Luke 4:32 …astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed *   authority. 
Luke 4:36 …one another, “What is this word? For with   authority  and power he commands the unclean spirits, …
Luke 5:24    


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