A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Being Teachable in Order to Teach: A Lectionary Reflection on Isaiah 50:4-9a

Isaiah 50:4-9a

I will always remember the exchange between the young seminary professor in his first year of teaching and the older student in his fifties at the end of the first class. The older student had been somewhat annoyed with the professor taking issue with him at several points during his introductory lecture. The professor was gracious in responding to his student; the student was not kind at all to the professor.

At the end of class, the student approached the professor and said to him in a voice that all of us could hear: "I think it is unfortunate that I am required to take this course because it is obvious from this morning that you have nothing to teach me."

Isaiah's servant is a teacher, one who knows how to sustain the weary with a comforting word. But the servant cannot be a teacher without first being taught and one cannot be taught without a teachable disposition. One cannot teach the word of the Lord if one has not been taught that same word.

It wasn't only the comforting word the servant was charged to offer, but the prophetic word as well; and the prophetic word is not comforting. In spite of opposition the servant will offer the word the Lord has put in his ear in the early hours of the morning. John Holbert writes,
From this role the servant refused to waver, was "not rebellious, did not turn backwards" (Is 50:5). The servant was so committed to the task that he "gave his back to those who struck me" and his "cheeks to those who pulled out the beard." Neither did he "hide (his) face from insult and spitting" (Is 50:6). Each of these acts-- striking, beard pulling, insults, and spitting-- are harsh activities in a shame-based culture. Few deeds could speak quite so negatively as these, each of which was designed to humiliate and denigrate a person, thus forcing him or her to "turn back," to reject the course they had first decided to follow. This servant will not be deterred from his task of careful listener and deep encourager, no matter what.
The servant knows that no matter what happens, God will vindicate him. No price is too high for the servant to pay in speaking the word of the Lord-- even death itself. It is no coincidence, nor is it a mistake that the first Christians saw Jesus as Isaiah's servant who was faithful to his mission up until the end.

Isaiah's servant, and Jesus the suffering servant, model for all of God's servants what it means to teach and be teachable-- to have the tongue of a teacher, and the ear of a faithful disciple.

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