The Suffering Servant
Whether spoken or not, it seems to me that the single most implied question in today’s society is “what do I get out of it, where is the payoff for me?”
Why, after all, do we have to follow a suffering Messiah? Wasn’t it just yesterday we were decorating the church, singing our Christmas Cantata and celebrating the birth of the baby of Bethlehem? Now we are getting ready to follow this baby, grown to an adult, to the cross.
Sometimes I wonder if we would rather put our own needs above everything else. But when we do that, when we put ourselves first, we are in fact denying the very ground of our creation.
In the creation story, Eve was made for Adam because it was not good for Adam to be alone. Human life is intended to be a life in communion and community with one another.
Jesus understood this reality when he was asked about the great commandment of the law. I am sure you know the one I am talking about to, it is the one I occasionally use as a Benediction, “you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and you should love your neighbor as yourself.”
On these commandments, Jesus tells us, depend all the law and the prophets. We are not created for ourselves, we were created for life with other people. When we are tempted to put our own needs first, I believe we are going against what God teaches us about the structure of human life.
To focus our lives around the question “what’s in it for me?” is to live the life of a sinner. Jesus calls out to sinners and bids us to repent. Jesus calls us to take up the cross, calls us to make the needs of other people the focus of our lives.
The good news in this call is that Jesus has already walked the way of life ahead of us. That means that when we live our lives for others, we never walk alone.
When we focus our lives on other people, we follow in the path that Jesus walked. Jesus’ suffering is the suffering that we enter. His pain is the pain we endure and his death is that death that we die.
And, of course, the best news of all is that his resurrection is the new life that we can share with God for all time.
On March 5th, we will officially enter the season of Lent. As we prepare for this, let us take the words of Jesus seriously and remember that it is only in losing our lives in the service of others that we find ourselves. It is in losing our lives that we receive God’s gift of eternal life.