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Bible Study Discussion Guide Fall 2018 Trinity Church in the City of Boston Year B / Revised Common Lectionary Proper 24: Sunday, October 21

The Rev. Patrick Ward
October 18, 2018

• Isaiah 53:4-12

• Psalm 91:9-16

• Hebrews 5:1-10

• Mark 10:35-45

Christians commonly read this passage from Isaiah as a prophecy of Christ. Jesus will come to bear our infirmities and carry our diseases. People who understand the Cross specifically in terms of Jesus dying to pay the price for our sins will often find support for this understanding in “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.” People who recoil against such understandings can find this passage difficult.


Jews read this and the other “Suffering Servant Songs” as describing the people of Israel as a whole, not an individual savior. This section of Isaiah is generally understood to be written during the Babylonian exile. At this point, the Jews have been driven out of their homeland, seen their Temple be destroyed, and now as they are paying a steep penalty for their sins, the prophet is offering hope that this will ultimately lead to healing and restoration. If you read the “servant” as the people of Israel, then they are simultaneously those whose transgressions and iniquities brought them into exile, those who are currently being wounded and crushed, and those who will find healing and wholeness.


The New Testament readings reinforce this idea of healing coming out of suffering. The author of Hebrews says that Christ “learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” The Gospel invites all of us to participate in this act of redemption, not in the same way that Jesus did but in a real way nevertheless. We often think that James and John are arrogant and foolish for saying they are able to drink the cup that Jesus drinks, but Jesus assures them they will in fact do it. And both James and John (along with most of the other disciples) will end up dying as martyrs. Of course not all suffering is necessarily meaningful, sometimes pain is just pain, but also sometimes Jesus invites us to embrace our own ways of being a suffering servant, doing our part to serve rather than be served, and participate in the redemption of the world.


• How have you heard the Isaiah text explained before? How do you react? Does it make a difference if the servant is the Messiah or the entire people? Could they both be true at the same time?

• Have you ever learned obedience through suffering?

• Have you ever seen your own suffering be an agent of someone else’s healing? Have you seen how someone else’s suffering has contributed to your own healing?


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