Series: The Lion and the Lamb
Message: The Love Paradox
Preacher: Tony Hunter
Reflection: Becky De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden
Live Beyond: Adrian Peterson
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Isaiah 53 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I’m focusing on the first few verses of this passage as they appear in the New Living Translation—up until the sentence that reads, “He was despised, and we did not care.” I’m always fascinated by the use of inclusive first person plural pronouns. Who is this “we” and “us” referenced here? Specifically, how am I a part of this community and why would I want to be included? Usually this rhetorical style is used to create a sense of togetherness and common purpose. We agree on things. We experience the same feelings. The scholarly duo of Mühlhäusler and Harré (1990) note that using “we” instead of “I” takes away some of the speaker’s or writer’s responsibilities; he or she has shifted these to some extent onto the reader or listener. And as a reader, I feel immediately resistant to this shift in responsibility. Speak for yourself, buddy. When did I turn my back on Jesus? When did I not care? Since when do I only pay attention to good looking people? Have you seen how many ugly friends I have? Wink.
Of course I know how a critic might respond: They’ll counter that I probably reject Jesus all the time. Or maybe they would say that the people of Jesus’ time provide a representative sample of human beings. Given that they (as a whole) rejected Him in a pretty conclusive way if you count crucifixion as conclusive, which we might as well, it could be inferred that any random sample of human beings would (as a whole) do the same thing. Perhaps if Jesus were to come to earth a thousand times and present himself to a different group of people in a different era each time, He would always, in every case, be rejected. Burned at the stake. Hanged. Shot. Sent to ADX Florence or Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lethally injected. But that still doesn’t offer conclusive evidence about how one individual might react to Him. That’s a loophole in positioning oneself in history that I personally have always appreciated: With the benefit of hindsight you can find yourself almost certainly more capable of making the right decisions than the fools and derelicts of the time. No way would I have collaborated with the Nazis. No way would I have shouted the name of Barabbas in a crowded square.
And there were people at the time of Jesus who did not reject Him; those who stayed with Him until the end, and those who went on to proclaim His name through savage persecution, in many cases dying brutal deaths for their loyalty. I’m talking here about people who actually knew Him personally—His face, His sorrows, His grief. His life had a lasting impact, for those who knew Him as a person and those of us who can only know Him in other, less tangible, ways.
The use of “we” and “us” does accomplish something important here. It reminds me that there is a distinct probability that had I lived at the time of Jesus, I would have rejected Him. Nearly everyone, in the end, did—if only through indifference. The pronouns also make me think about my reaction to other people—those who are not attractive or interesting whom I might tend to overlook. People have an established tendency toward compassion fatigue: I know there are people I avoid because I become weary of the weight of their problems. I turn my back. I tell myself I have problems enough of my own. That is not what Jesus would do.
Recalibrate: How do you relate to the idea that you are responsible in some way for Jesus’ death and for rejecting Him?
Respond: Pray for the ability to fully accept Jesus as your Savior.
Research: Read one of the selected commentaries on this passage.
Remember: “But He was wounded for the wrong things we did. He was crushed for the evil things we did” (Isaiah 53:5, ICB).
Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, editor, and graphic designer. She is working on a PhD in research methods at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Make a water play station with items that you can squeeze. This is a good activity for bath time. Using sponges, soak up as much water as you can and then squeeze it out. When Jesus gave His life on the Cross, He soaked up all the bad we have ever done, and, as Jesus always does, He turned it into something good—a way to be clean.
Locate the first aid kit you keep at home. Take an inventory of what you have in case anyone at home gets injured. If you are missing items from your first aid kit, make a list and ask someone to take you shopping so you have a great kit on hand! When we think of Jesus suffering and dying long ago, we can remember that today there are also people who are suffering, and many times we can help. Be sure you know how to use the first aid kit at your home properly. And remember to thank Jesus for being injured so that we don’t have to face the same things He did.
When I was in elementary school, maybe aged 10, I had a pretty bad habit of telling stories that weren’t exactly true. There was one particular story that I told where I was rollerblading (yeah I know, I am a child of the ’90s) and I was able to dunk a basketball while on skates! But for some reason no one believed me. I even tried to explain that I had these special springs in the boots that helped me jump higher but still no one believed me. You believe me, right? Right? OK, fine—this isn’t true, but why didn’t you believe me? I am going to guess that the story was too outrageous and unless you saw me accomplish this feat for yourself you would call me a liar. Isaiah was having the same problem—no one would believe his message. Except there is just one difference; unlike in the case of my story, the people had seen and experienced the “powerful arm” of God and they still didn’t believe. What about you? What would it take for you to believe? Do you have to see His “powerful arm” or can you believe in faith what the Bible says is true? Do you believe the message of Jesus?
Who is the “outcast” at your school? You know, the person no one wants to be see with. Maybe they are dorky, or maybe they smell funny. Are you that person? When you walk down the halls do people look at you or turn the other way? It is hard being someone no one wants. I hope that isn’t you. Yet most of all I hope that you aren’t treating anyone else that way. When I was in eighth grade I got into a fight that cost me my popularity at school. Within an hour I found myself completely rejected and wandering the cafeteria looking for a place to sit. I sat at one lunch table and a group of girls came over and smacked me in the face as payback for the fight. Tears filled my eyes and I got up looking for another table. In the corner of the cafe was the “nerd table.” It was a twelve-person table with maybe five guys sitting there. They were scrawny, dorky, and they were their own little “weirdo” clique. As I wandered around looking for a place to sit, I asked, “Can I sit with you guys?” And they responded with smiles. Jesus was rejected. He was an outcast. “A man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Those guys were a lot like Jesus that day. Jesus takes in the outcast, the brokenhearted, rejected, and lame. Why? Because He has been there too.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Adrian Peterson is the associate pastor at Burwood Adventist Community Church in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.