Lesson: Isaiah 53:4-12
4 Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.
9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.
because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Israel’s history. Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and called for Jerusalem to repent in the 20 years before Jerusalem was under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55 and brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 and, for the most part, gave encouragement to Judeans who returned to Jerusalem (which had been largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile.
Today’s reading is part of Second Isaiah and is one of the “Suffering Servant” songs, the longest of which is Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. The identity of the “Suffering Servant” is sometimes understood as the prophet Isaiah but is more commonly is seen as Judea itself, whose suffering in the Exile (as the servant of YHWH) would lead to vindication by YHWH in the restoration to Jerusalem after 539 BCE.
The author of the Gospel According to Mark used many of the Suffering Servant themes to describe the sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth and for the representation that “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Epistle: Hebrews 5:1-10
1 Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since he himself is subject to weakness; 3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
The Letter to the Hebrews was an anonymous sermon addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Jesus Followers which urged them to maintain their Faith in the face of persecution.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is sometimes attributed to Paul, most scholars agree that it was written sometime after Paul’s death in 63 CE, but before 100 CE. The letter introduced many important theological themes. The first four chapters explored the word of God spoken through the Son.
The author interpreted the life, death, and heavenly role of Jesus through the category of the “high priest’ who perfected the ancient sacrificial system of Judaism (which ended when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE).
The letter emphasized that Jesus (as high priest) was able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he (as a human) had been tested as we are. The presentation of Jesus as high priest in the Letter to the Hebrews is unique in the Christian Scriptures and reflected the continuing
process in early Christianity of developing images to describe who and what Jesus of Nazareth was (and is).
The quote in verse 5 is taken from Psalm 2:7, a psalm that is interpreted as relating to David and is seen as a coronation ode. The quote in verse 6 is taken from Psalm 110:4 and is also regarded as applying to David. As seen in 2 Samuel 6 and 8, David sometimes assumed the role of a priest, and in 1 Kings 3:4, Solomon offered sacrifice at Gibeon.
The High Priest Melchizedek (v.6) appears only in Genesis 14 where he was identified as the King of Salem (an early name for Jerusalem). As a High Priest, Melchizedek offered bread and wine as a sacrifice and blessed Abram (before his name was changed to Abraham).
Gospel: Mark 10:35-45
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is usually dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.”
Today’s reading follows Jesus’ telling “the twelve” (v.32) for the third time that the Son of Man would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes and would be killed and after three days would rise again (v.34).
James and John’s request (v.37) showed that they either rejected or misunderstood Jesus’ mission and what Jesus had told them. The “cup” is the suffering that will be part of being a Jesus Follower, and in verses 42 to 44, Jesus expressed a view that, in contrast to the imperial practices of the Gentiles, Jesus Followers are called to be “servants” or “slaves.”
That the Son of Man would be a “ransom for many” (v.45) is derived from the Suffering Servant Songs of Isaiah 52-53. There are numerous theories about what these words mean. In the First Century (until 70 CE when the Temple was destroyed), animal sacrifice was being performed at the Temple. These sacrifices were offered for many different purposes – to offer thanksgiving to God, to atone for sins, and for establishing community among those offering the sacrifice.
In Christianity, there are different understandings of the meaning of the Crucifixion – that it was an example for Christians to be ready to be sacrificed and suffer for following Jesus’ example of being a servant to others by loving God and our neighbor; or that he died “for” our sins in the sense that Jesus died “because” of the sins which we share with the Roman Authorities and the Jewish Leaders who rejected his life and message.
In the 11th Century CE, Anselm of Canterbury developed the theory of “Substitutionary Atonement “ in which Jesus (as a perfect sacrifice) was seen as a “stand in” or substitute for all persons and that Jesus died to “square the account” with a God who was angry with humans because of Adam’s sin. This understanding of God as an angry God who demanded the killing of his Son is considered by many as inconsistent with an understanding of a God of Love who is merciful and forgiving.