Isaiah’s ‘servant’ anticipated Jesus Christ

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Centuries ago, a person knew from an early age what occupation he or she would end up in.

Often, that meant going into the same line of work as your parents. So, if your father was a farmer, you would become one, too. If your father was a merchant, you would take over the shop when you grew up. Even as a child, you knew your destiny.

That is the idea behind Sunday’s first reading, Is 49:3, 5-6: “Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb.” From the very first moment of this person’s existence, God has had a plan for that individual.

And that plan involves a massive task. God orders this servant “that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him.”

But that is only the beginning. God further informs the servant: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

So, who is this servant of the Lord?  Since these words appear in the book of the prophet Isaiah, we might assume that they are directed to that prophet, or to one of his disciples.

At the same time, they anticipate our understanding of Jesus Christ. After all, we call him the light of the world. We believe that he has come to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

And how does Jesus Christ accomplish this awesome undertaking? 

We might remember that the words of our reading were originally directed to a prophet. A prophet is a person who speaks on behalf of God.

We sometimes think of a prophet as a person who foretells the future. For example, we interpret many of the prophecies of the Old Testament as pointing to the Messiah yet to come.

While sometimes the message of the prophet concerns the future, it sometimes instead focuses on the present. What characterizes the prophet’s message is that it originates from God. 

When Jesus traveled from town to town in Galilee, he would teach the people, tell them parables and speak to them about God’s love and mercy.

In doing that, he was spreading the good news about God. He was carrying out the prophetic mission that God had entrusted to him.

When we echo the message of Jesus, he continues to speak through us. His light continues to shine. God’s salvation continues to reach to the ends of the earth.

That is the plan that God has for Jesus and for us.

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