Today our readings are the first servant song from Isaiah; Hebrews’ description of the sacrifice of Christ’s obedient death; and John’s description of the prophetic sign carried out by Mary of Bethany when she anointed Jesus in the same act both as Messiah and for his burial. If we want to walk with Jesus this week, we could do a lot worse than to look at the Servant to whom we are introduced in Isaiah.
In this song God both calls and commissions God’s Servant. The Servant is upheld, called, and given; he has strength and endurance enough not to grow faint nor be crushed until he has established justice and yet he is gentle and peaceful enough not to break a bruised reed nor quench a burning wick. He is a covenant to the people and a light to the nations. This Servant is God’s gift to all to bring about God’s righteousness all over the earth.
In calling this extraordinary Servant, God emphasises the newness of what God is doing. All this resonates with Jesus’ final journey: in his obedience to the Father’s will Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem with strength and endurance and also gentleness and peace. We will see all of this exhibited in his last days. And why? So that he can show himself to be God’s chosen, establishing justice, bringing life, establishing a new covenant, releasing all of us who are captives to this world and its injustices.
Mary of Bethany recognised that Jesus was God’s Servant and God’s Messiah and she knew what that meant: as Servant and Messiah Jesus would do God’s will, putting him on a collision course with the powers-that-be in our fallen world. His faithfulness to God would likely lead to his death, but it also proclaimed him as God’s Messiah, the true Shepherd for God’s people. Thus she anoints him, prophesying both his approaching death and his incredible vindication.
Following her lead, we bear witness this week as he fulfils the promise of his ministry of healing and proclamation. On Thursday evening and Friday afternoon Jesus, the Servant of God, will establish a new covenant, sealed in his own blood, by his obedience even in the face of death, his submission to brutality and judicial murder rather than to betray his relationship with the God who loves and chooses and delights in him. And on Sunday morning God will have the last word.