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Passion Sunday Isaiah 50:4-10

Isaiah 50:4-10

On that first Palm Sunday Jesus came down from Mount of Olives, through the Kidron valley and rides up into Jerusalem.

It is that ‘down and then up’ picture that we need to hold in our minds as we think about Palm Sunday, our passages (Isaiah 50:4-11; Philippians 2:4-11), and what we are about to hear in the gospel (Mark 14-15).

Isaiah 50 speaks of this mysterious servant of God

He could be the righteous people of Israel – who suffer exile and slavery in Babylon, but who are going to be brought back to their land
The servant could be the prophet Isaiah – rejected, mocked and beaten by his hearers – but who puts his trust in the vindication of God
Or he could also be – as Christians understand it – the coming Messiah, of Jesus Christ.

He was the one, in the words of Philippians 2, who was equal with God, but who made himself nothing, becomes a servant, humbles himself and becomes obedient to death: who is accused, betrayed, falsely condemned, tortured, humiliated and executed

Isaiah 50 speaks of how this servant is a teacher who sustains the weary
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word” (Isaiah 50.4)
He encourages those who are exhausted and discouraged; who see no light at the end of their tunnel; who are facing shame, pain, humiliation; who are confronting what looks like their own crucifixion.
He encourages people who are down here in the pit

And he encourages us because

1. He was willing to listen to God

The servant says, “He [God] wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50.4)

One of the things that is remarkable about the gospels is that they reveal to us not only what Jesus did and said, but his inner life.
They tell us that he went away to pray
They tell us what he prayed: the Lord’s Prayer, John 17 – that his followers would share in the love that God has for him and that he has for God, and that they would share in their glory.
And they tell us that he listened for God and spoke what his Father asked him to speak: “Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them.” John 17:7-8

And because Jesus listened to God, he has something to say. He is able to speak an appropriate word

2. He was willing to obey God whatever the cost

“I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back” (Isaiah 50.5)

Jesus knew what faced him as he went down from the mount of olives into Jerusalem. He knew that he would face torture, beating, mocking and spitting
But he set his face ‘like flint’.

From the very beginning of his ministry he knew that he had come to die, to give his life to set people free. And he was faithful to that calling, despite everything that Satan tried to throw at him: the temptations, the demons, Simon Peter telling him he was not to go to the cross, the agony in the garden and the mocking challenge to him to come down from the cross.

Jesus we are told in Luke, set his face to go to Jerusalem.

3. He puts his trust in the vindication of God

“Because the sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced” (Isaiah 50.7)
“I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near”. (Isaiah 50:7-8)

We are told in Philippians 2.4-11 that it is because Jesus humbles himself and becomes ‘obedient to death – even death on a cross’ … ‘therefore God exalts him and gives him the name that is above every name ..’

The first followers of Jesus saw the shame, the crucifixion – but they also saw his vindication – but for that we wait till next Sunday.
And one day, when ‘he comes again in glory’, we will see the risen Jesus vindicated and glorified.

And because Jesus listened, because he obeyed and trusted in God – when he speaks, if we are prepared, to pray that God will open our ears, to listen ..
(I love that ‘morning by morning’: there is a habit, discipline which needs to be formed in us. Michael Harper writes of how he became a Christian at university. He went to tell the friend who had been talking with him about Jesus. He expected him to be all excited. And all the friend said was, ‘That is wonderful. Now we need to get you an alarm clock. You need to begin to learn the discipline of listening to God, of reading his word, morning by morning’.)
But if we are prepared to listen to Jesus then when we are weary, exhausted, without hope, when we are in the pit – he will speak to us the word that we need to hear.

It is a shame that the reading from Isaiah finishes today at verse 9, because verse 10 is so precious:

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on His God”

Let him who is down here, in the pit, trust in the name of Jesus, the name that is above all names, the name of the one who obeyed and went into the pit for us, and who has been exalted – trust him for that word - and that, in his time and in his way, he will lift us up.


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