Is 50:4-9; Ps 69:8-10,21,22,31,33,34; Mt 26:14-25: What a difference one day makes in this beautiful drama of Holy Week. The psalm now sings of the insult and shame that afflicts the faithful servant of the LORD. The Suffering Servant no longer prays to be shielded from shame. Now he prays that even his suffering would give glory to the LORD. It is for the sake of the LORD that the servant bears insult and because of his love that shame covers his face. The Servant is an outcast to his own brothers; his mother’s sons no longer recognize him. It is the zeal for the house of the LORD that consumes the faithful Servant. In his very flesh he bears the insults of those who blaspheme the LORD. His very heart is broken with insults and he is weak with weariness. Everywhere he looks for sympathy he finds only silence; all consolers are now quiet and removed. Even his food is made bitter and his drink is vinegar. Yet, in the midst of such suffering the Faithful Servant of the LORD sings to the praise of God’s Holy Name. With thanksgiving the Servant glorifies the LORD. In his unspeakable agony the lowly can see their own misery. In his unbearable pain the Lord Jesus invites all who suffer to be glad. Like Wisdom he calls out to the city, “Come all who seek God. Come let your hearts revive when you taste and see that the LORD is good!” Indeed the LORD gazes upon his Precious One and he sees the love with which he embraces the poor and the slaves. Those who have nothing and no one, those enslaved to sin and guilt, the LORD spurns not. In Christ the Father sees all the lowly and poor and he spurns them not. In his great love the Father answers his Suffering Servant and hope is born again for all who suffer injustice and rejection. Just as the Lord Jesus suffered and was heard by the LORD, so too are all who cry out in agony and pain.
It is nothing less than the zeal of the LORD that enables the Suffering Servant to continue turning to the LORD God, his only help. This servant willingly embraces the training for holiness that the LORD gives him in the midst of his suffering. As Saint Paul proclaims in his preaching the Lord Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered. The Lord Jesus is this Suffering Servant who has a well-trained tongue. He it is who speaks a word of hope and encouragement to the weary. The LORD opens the ears of his faithful servant to hear that the mercies of the LORD are new each morning. This innocent and sinless Son of God remains obedient even when they beat him and plucked his beard. He did not shield his face from buffets and spitting. He did not defend himself. The LORD was his help; defense is completely unnecessary! The Lord Jesus set his face like flint; he trusted that ultimately even his shame would be vindicated. The LORD is still near to those who suffer insults and injustice, misunderstanding and ridicule. Indeed, any opposition to the Servant of the LORD cannot stand. Anyone who opposes the Suffering Servant is proved wrong. Anyone who opposes the servants of the Suffering Servant have no ground on which to stand when the Sun of Justice arises in all his glory. All who are weary will be purified in his light and strengthen for glory. All who beat, pluck, buffet, and spit will be judged and condemned. The LORD and his Suffering Servant are kind and merciful slow to anger and rich in kindness. It is that Suffering Servant, Jesus the Christ who will come to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Saint John’s “my hour” becomes “my appointed time” in Saint Matthew, at least in this translation of the Sacred Scriptures. We look again through the eyes of the synoptic tradition at the hour of betrayal; this scene we have already viewed through the eyes of Saint John on Monday. Here the Apostle Judas is much more active in his role as betrayer. The other apostles are likewise more active in preparing for the last Passover with the Lord Jesus before his death and resurrection. Saint Matthew does not include the tenderness of Mary of Bethany; no other friends are mentioned in this much more painful account of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Saint Matthew even displays the agony of the apostles when he writes, “Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely it is not I, Lord.’” These men struggle with the full impact of the betrayal, and they have no clue when it comes to the resurrection. They simply could not grasp the mystery of the cross as having anything to do with the coming of the Kingdom. We too share this mental and spiritual block. How can suffering be anything other than pain? Perhaps this Holy Week we will come to know our own distress at our betrayal of the Lord Jesus and find in his meek and humble suffering the cleansing of the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Indeed, it is the innocent and blameless Suffering Servant who continues to teach us obedience in what he suffers.