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Isaiah 50:4-9a 1
4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. 5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. 6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. 7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! 9 It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me?

img139Background 2

The 66 chapters of Isaiah consist primarily of prophecies of Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Israel (the northern kingdom), Ethiopia, Egypt, Arabia, and Phoenicia. The prophecies concerning them can be summarized as saying that God is the God of the whole earth, and that nations which think of themselves as secure in their own power might well be conquered by other nations, at God’s command.

The authorship of the first 39 chapters are typically assigned to Isaiah without controversy, with the remaining chapters assigned to one or more scribes working in Isaiah’s tradition. Chapters 40 to 66 have been called “The Book of Comfort.” In the first eight chapters of this book of comfort, Isaiah prophesies the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of the Babylonians and restoration of Israel as a unified nation in the land promised to them by God. Isaiah reaffirms that the Jews are indeed the chosen people of God in chapter 44 and that Yahweh is the only God for the Jews (and the only God of the universe) as he will show his power over the mighty rulers of Babylon in due time in chapter 46. In chapter 45:1, the Persian ruler Cyrus is named as the person of power who will overthrow the Babylonians and allow the return of Israel to their original land.

The remaining chapters of the book contain prophecies of the future glory of Zion. A “suffering servant” is referred to (esp. ch. 53). Rabbinic Judaism understands this as a metaphor for Israel; Christians see it as referring to the Messiah. Although there is still the mention of judgment of false worshippers and idolaters (65 & 66), the book ends with a message of hope of a righteous ruler who extends salvation to his righteous subjects living in the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

Bible Truths 3

Taken from Matthew Henry’s Commentary: As Jesus was God and man in one person, we find him sometimes speaking, or spoken of, as the Lord God; at other times, as man and the servant of Jehovah. He was to declare the truths which comfort the broken, contrite heart, those weary of sin, harassed with afflictions. And as the Holy Spirit was upon him, that he might speak as never man spoke; so the same Divine influence daily wakened him to pray, to preach the gospel, and to receive and deliver the whole will of the Father. The Father justified the Son when he accepted the satisfaction he made for the sin of man. Christ speaks in the name of all believers. Who dares to be an enemy to those unto whom he is a Friend? or who will contend with those whom he is an Advocate? Thus St. Paul applies it, Romans 8:33.

4Verse 4 – Here ‘tongue’ is a picture word, to refer to the Servant’s authority to speak God’s message. The Servant qualifies to be God’s messenger, because God has taught him what to say (see Jeremiah 1:9. Ezekiel 3:27). Moreover, God had comforted his special Servant. So the Servant can also speak from personal experience (see Isaiah 40:1-2).

Verse 5 – The Servant must listen carefully. That is, not only to hear God’s words, but also to understand God’s meaning.

Verse 6 – The Servant was willing to suffer.

Verse 7 – The Servant concentrates his mind on the Lord. That action gives the Servant the determination that he needs to carry on the Lord’s work. That determination is the meaning of the word picture about stone.

Verse 8 – The language of a court of law shows the Servant’s attitude. He has complete confidence in the Lord’s judgement.

Verse 9 – The attacks of those who oppose the Servant are too weak to succeed. Old clothes that insects have spoiled will fall to pieces. And the accuser’s arguments have no more substance than those old clothes. To pull out the hairs of a man’s beard was not only painful. It was the traditional way to bring shame upon a man (see Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 15:2; Nehemiah 13:25).

Note: at the time in history when Isaiah lived, flint was one of the, if not the hardest of substances known. It would cut iron. It is a metaphor as to Christ’s commitment to His Father and an example to us all.

Items for Discussion

  • Compare the attitude described by Isaiah. Is Isaiah describing Christ? If so, in what ways?
  • Why would a servant be willing to suffer but not a king?
  • How was the attitude of the servant described by Isaiah a perfect description of humility?
  • What benefits did our world receive by Christ coming as a servant instead of a worldly king?

 

Mark 11:1-11
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'” 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Background 5

There are several characteristics that make the Gospel of Mark unique. Too often, these special characteristics are overlooked because Mark is read in light of the other synoptic gospels (Matthew and Luke), or John, or even the letters of Paul.

Although still debated by some, the consensus among the majority of biblical scholars is that the Gospel of Mark was the first of the canonical Gospels to appear. Consequently, it served as a source for the authors of Matthew and Luke when they wrote their Gospels. Moreover, although the Gospel of Mark was probably not the first Christian text to be labeled as “gospel,” it is likely the first gospel to utilize a narrative structure (versus, for example, a “sayings” gospel).

The author of Mark places sharp emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. This is best seen perhaps with respect to Jesus’ suffering. In fact, the suffering of Jesus is the key to understanding Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man (see e.g., 8:31-33; ; and 10:33-34, et al.).

In Mark, faith is a gift of God; characters in the narrative either have it or they don’t. Furthermore, miracles do not lead to faith (compare the Gospel According to John), but rather, faith is required in order that miracles can take place (see e.g., 6:1-6).

Many readers of Mark have recognized for a long time the negative manner in which Mark portrays the disciples (including the authors of Matthew and Luke who “corrected” Mark’s treatment in various ways). The disciples in Mark come across as dimwitted, misguided, and selfish, rather than as Jesus’ privileged associates and great apostles of the church. There are a number of ways to interpret this. For instance, perhaps Mark meant to depict them as “fallible followers” and thus give his readers hope when they struggle to understand and follow Jesus. On the other hand, the author of Mark may well have had an axe to grind with the leaders of the church in his day.

Readers of Mark have also noticed Jesus’ frequent commands to silence and his efforts to hide his identity. This motif has often been referred to as the “Messianic secret.” Whether it is a historical representation or a literary construction of the author is a matter of debate. Regardless of which position one takes, however, the theme poses interesting challenges for interpretation. One important outcome of the Messianic secret in Mark is that it allows for a provocative use of irony on the part of the author. Since the reader does, in fact, know who Jesus really is, she/he can immediately grasp the ironic twist when, for instance, Jesus is identified on the cross as the “King of the Jews.”

Biblical Truths 6

A new part of Mark’s Gospel begins here. Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Messiah. He teaches in the Temple and he argues with the religious authorities.

Verse 1 Bethphage and Bethany were two villages near each other on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem. It was the village where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived. They were friends of Jesus.

Verses 2-3 We think that Jesus made arrangements about the donkey some time before. We know from John’s Gospel that he made more than one visit to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke about ‘how often’ he would have gathered the people of Jerusalem to himself (Matthew 23:37). ‘The Lord needs it’ was the special sign to the owner that Jesus’ disciples were not stealing the animal. A donkey was the animal that a king used. That is why Jesus chose to ride on one. When a king went to war, he rode on a horse. A donkey showed that the king came in peace. Jesus made the words of Zechariah (9:9) come true. ‘Your king comes to you – – -. He is riding on a donkey.’ Because the young donkey had never carried anyone before, it was suitable for a holy purpose. It was like a young cow that had to be perfect for a sacrifice (Numbers 19:2).

Verses 7-8 The crowd were probably following a custom when they spread their clothes on the road. John’s Gospel says that they carried ‘palm’ branches (John 12:13)

Verses 9-10 ‘Hosanna’ is a word to praise God. It means ‘Please save us now’. It would be an appeal to God to save his people from their enemies. The word comes from Psalm 118:25. ‘Blessed is the man who comes’ was a welcome for people who were coming to a special day in Jerusalem. ‘The man who comes’ was also another name for the Messiah. The crowd was not shouting ‘Hosanna’ only as a cry of praise. They were asking God to save his people from the Romans now that their Messiah had come. Jesus showed that he rode in peace. But they did not understand. (A palm is a kind of tree.) So Christians call the day Palm Sunday.

Verse 11 Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives. He crossed the Kidron valley and he went into Jerusalem. He looked round at everything in the Temple. He was deciding what to do there next. But he went to Bethany, where he probably stayed with his friends. He could be quiet and he could gain strength from God. His friends would encourage him.

Items for Discussion

  • Think about the entrance Jesus makes into Jerusalem and his death only a few days later. How could a crowd of people turn on Him so fast?
  • How did the mistaken understanding of Christ’s kingship play a role in their change with regard to Christ?
  • Where do you see the “humanity” of Christ in these verses?
  • Where do you see the “God” in these verses?
  • How is Christ demonstrating His servanthood?

Discussion Challenge

  • Where are we, the modern church of today, still like the people of Jerusalem?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Isaiah
  3. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=23&c=50 Matthew Henry’s Commentary
  4. http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/isaiah49-57-lbw-nh.htm
  5. http://www.americanbible.org/absport/news/item.php?id=92
  6. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=42&c=4&com=mhc Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
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