The Servant Then and Now (Isaiah 53:3)

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah 53:3

What was true of The Servant — Jesus — at His coming remains true today. When Jesus was here, He fulfilled this prophecy. The Jewish leadership of the time hated Him and conspired to deliver Him up to Rome for execution. Rome did not care much for Him one way or another — even their historians only mention Him in passing. His half-siblings and His own mother thought He was a lunatic.

But there were those who saw Him. There were those who followed Him. There were those who believed; who trusted what He said and banked their lives on it.

The choice made then remains the choice that must be made now. I can respond to Jesus as the Jewish leadership of the day and actively resent Him for His claims.The Jewish leadership viewed Him as a liar. More than once they took up stones to stone Him for His claims to divinity.

I can respond the way that the Roman government did and shrug off everything He said and did. I can respond with ambivalence and apathy. The Roman government was unconcerned with whether or not He was Who He claimed He was, they worshiped other gods entirely. Moderns have much in common with ancient Rome. Their gods were the gods of sky and ocean and life and death and so on. Moderns’ are given names like astronomy and ecology and biology and so on. The modern pantheon seems reasonable to moderns, just as the Roman pantheon seemed reasonable to Romans. In both cases, the limits of the pantheon can point to the limitlessness of God or can distract from Him. Either way, God is ignored.

I can respond the way Jesus’ family did and write Him off as a lunatic. In more than one instance and recorded in more than one gospel, Jesus’ family came to try to take Him home and get Him the help He needs as it were.

C.S. Lewis wrote what has become one of the best ways of viewing the claims of Christ. Either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord God. Either He deceived people, in which case He was better than even our best politicians; or He was a madman who thought He was God in human flesh; or He was and is exactly Who He claimed to be.

There is one thing I cannot do. I cannot respond by half measures. If I would hate Him, then the hate will grow to be all-consuming. If I am ambivalent toward Him or choose to worship other gods, then my ambivalence will grow to apathy and eventually to disdain. If I would write Him off as a lunatic, then I will discount everything He says as the ravings of a madman. But I cannot take some of what He says and discard some. He did not leave me with that option. He demanded total commitment.

Of note, what was true of The Servant with capital letters may also be true of the servant without capitals. If I choose to follow Christ, then it is entirely possible that I may be despised. I may be thought a liar or a lunatic. I may be little esteemed or esteemed not at all by the world at large.

The modern world, by and large, fulfills the substance of this verse. They despise Jesus and do not esteem Him. How will I respond?

Jesus, thank You for being despised and forsaken so that I can be loved and accepted by Your Father. Thank You for enduring the ignominy of the life You lived. Please teach me to take up my cross and follow You as You deserve, knowing that my life may be similarly despised and esteemed not at all by the world.

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