Between the Lines: Pentecost 21: October 21, 2012

Text: Isaiah 53:4-12

Portion of a photographic reproduction of the ...

The Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran, showing all of Isaiah 53.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  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.

I’ve always struggled with the mythology of the suffering servant, the story told here in Isaiah and claimed by the Christian tradition as a foretelling of Jesus’ role in human history.  So I ask, if religious faith serves, at least in part, as an expression of psychological truth, how does this myth of the suffering servant function in the modern world and in our own lives?

What really happens when you or I take on the sins and suffering of others on their behalf? How does such suffering manifest itself in us physically, emotionally, and spiritually? What happens to those we’ve “saved”? Describe the healing that does (or doesn’t) take place? What movement toward wholeness do we initiate—for ourselves, for the other, for the world? What does such vicarious atonement do to our relationships with those we’ve saved? To our relationships with other loved ones? To a relationship with ourselves? To our relationship with God? Does being a servant require suffering? Is suffering a form of serving? And, if so, who does it really serve?

– Kathie Collins


“Between the Lines” is excerpted from BibleWorkbench, a weekly resource for engaging the biblical story in a new way published by the Educational Center in Charlotte, NC. For details and subscription information, see About BibleWorkbench.

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