Sunday began Holy Week with a focus on Jesus’ death. Monday saw the introduction of a fresh perspective: God’s purpose is accomplished through Jesus’ crucifixion. This is the case insofar as the Crucifixion is both the basis for Jesus’ resurrection and establishes Jesus’ presence before God as the true and unique conduit for forgiveness on behalf of the community. The latter theme is pursued on Tuesday, with particular attention to the extension of God’s blessing to Gentiles.
The servant discussed in Isaiah 49:1-7—which refers to Israel as a light to the nations—already offers the prospect of a mediator who will stand between God and humankind. Isaiah anticipates God’s saving power as extending to the end of the earth. Psalm 71:1-14 speaks from the viewpoint of a person thankful for God’s protection “from the womb,” using an image reminiscent of the passage from Isaiah (49:1). In the psalm, however, awareness of divine care comes with the recognition of the fragility of human life. The dangers of enemies and the breakdown of human strength that the psalm keenly expresses invite an association with the context of Jesus’ actions in Jerusalem. There, he too is surrounded by opponents and becomes increasingly reliant on God’s care alone.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 articulates the grace that is involved in Christ’s being revealed to both Jews and Greeks (that is, Israelites and Gentiles). John 12:20-36 provides a unique story of Jesus’ awareness not only of his own fate but of its implications for humanity as a whole. The consistent theme in these readings is the extension to all people of God’s blessings and protection.
The Restoration of Zion as a Light to the Nations
Isaiah 49 proclaims the people of Israel to be God’s servant, a light to the nations through whom divine recompense—God’s saving power—becomes available to all peoples. The idea that Jesus makes salvation available to all people thus is shown to have its foundation in the Hebrew Bible’s theme of the potential for the extension of God’s blessings to Gentiles.
- 1. Coastlands, listen to me;
pay heed, peoples from afar.
The Lord called me from the womb;
from my mother’s belly God pronounced my name.
- 2. God made my mouth like a sharp sword;
God hid me under the shadow of his hand.
God made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver God concealed me.
- 3. God said to me, “You, Israel, are my servant, through whom I shall be glorified.”
- 4. I thought, “For no purpose I have toiled,
for nothing and in vain I have exhausted my strength.”
But in truth, my just due comes only from the Lord;
my reward is from my God.
- 5. And now the Lord has determined—
who created me from the womb as his servant—
to restore Jacob to him,
so that Israel to him will be gathered—
And I have been honored in the eyes of the Lord,
and my God has been my strength—
- 6. For God said, “Is it a trivial thing for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the saved of Israel?
For I have made you a light to the nations,
so that my saving power will reach the end of the earth.”
- 7. Thus says the Lord,
redeemer of Israel, its Holy One,
to the despised one, the one abhorred by nations,
to the servant of rulers,
“Kings will see and will stand,
chieftains, and they will bow down,
on account of the Lord, who is trustworthy,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Seeking Refuge from God
This reading expresses thankfulness for God’s protection in the context of an awareness of the fragility of human life. Reflecting on God’s protection “from the womb,” it carries forward the theme of today’s reading from Isaiah, which recognizes God’s establishing Israel as his servant “from the womb.”
- 1. In you, Lord, I have sought refuge;
may I never be disgraced!
- 2. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
extend to me your ear and save me!
- 3. Be my protecting rock—to come continually, as you have promised—to save me;
for you are my rock and fortress.
- 4. My God, rescue me from the hand of evil-doers,
from the palm of the unjust and ruthless.
- 5. For you are my hope;
my Lord, God, my source of security from my youth.
- 6. Upon you have I depended from the womb;
from my mother’s belly, you severed me.
My praise is continually for you.
- 7. To the many, I have become an emblem of your power,
for you are my strong refuge.
- 8. Let my mouth be filled with your praise,
all day long, with your glory!
- 9. Do not cast me off in old age;
when my strength is spent, do not abandon me!
- 10. For my enemies say concerning me,
and those who watch for my life have consulted together—
- 11. Saying, “God has forsaken him! Pursue and grab him, for there is no one to rescue him!”
- 12. God, do not distance yourself from me!
My God, hurry to my aid!
- 13. Let my life’s adversaries be shamed, let them perish!
May those who seek evil against me be enveloped in disgrace and humiliation.
- 14. But I shall always have hope and shall increase all of my praise of you.
1 Corinthians 1:18–31
The Foolishness of God is Wiser than Human Intelligence
This selection from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians focuses on the Holy Week theme of the extension of God’s blessing to Gentiles as a result of Jesus’ crucifixion on behalf of humanity.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written in the Scriptures of Israel, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will nullify.” Where are the wise? Where are the scribes? Where are the debaters of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? By the wisdom of God, since the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the proclamation. For the Jews demand signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. We announce a crucified Anointed, who is an offense to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but to those who are called both Jews and Greeks alike, the Anointed is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human intelligence, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. For consider your call, brothers and sisters—not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world in order to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world in order to shame the strong, and the insignificant and despised things of the world––things that don’t even exist––God chose in order to abolish the power of the things that do exist, so that no human being could boast in God’s presence. Because of God, you are in the Anointed Jesus, who became to us the wisdom of God, as well as righteousness, holiness, and redemption, so that as it is written, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Greeks Desire to See Jesus
In the Gospel according to John, the theme of the extension of God’s blessing to all people is acknowledged in a unique story of Jesus’ awareness not only of his own fate but of its implications for humanity as a whole.
Now, some Greeks were among those who came up to worship at the feast. Therefore, they came up to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and they asked him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew, and then Philip and Andrew went together and spoke to Jesus. Jesus said to them, “The hour has come that the Son of Man be glorified. Amen, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a single seed; but if it were to die, then it would produce much fruit. The one who loves his life will lose it, but the one who lets go of his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. Whoever serves me, must follow me, and where I am, there also my servant will be. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Now, my soul is troubled, and what then should I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this reason, I came for this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Then the crowd that had been there and heard it said, “It has thundered!” Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus responded and said, “That sound did not come for my sake but rather for yours. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be thrown out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself.” He was saying this in order to indicate what kind of death he was about to die. Therefore, the crowd said to him, “We heard from the Law that the Anointed remains forever. How then can you say that it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus then said to them, “The light will be among you for just a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness will not overtake you. The one who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.” Jesus said these things then departed and hid from them.
- Isaiah 29:14.