Isaiah 50:4-91NIV New International Version Translations
4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. 5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. 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 will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.
During the times of Isaiah, the stone, flint, was one of the hardest known substances. On the international hardness scale, flint ranks 7 out of 10, where diamond is 10, so it is harder than most materials commonly encountered in the natural environment, especially around 740-681 BC when Isaiah was alive . Flint also has the property of taking an edge thinner than a steel blade (only a few molecules thick) so it is literally sharper than a razor. Flint is still in use today as surgical tool because incisions made with a flint blade heal more quickly and are more sterile. Because this is part of the 2nd Book of Isaiah, he is called “the servant. ” We assume that it was his followers who were passing on the wisdom of Isaiah’s teachings. When the servant says “I set my face like flint,” he very well knew that those listening would understand he was very determined in his position.
The communication of God’s intentions to the people is fundamental to the core of a prophet’s calling. The verses begin with an emphasis on the tongue of this loyal “teacher” used to support the weary people. The ear of the servant is opened to both those whom he teaches and to God. The servant is obedient and declares with confidence, “I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.” It was God, the servant declares that gave him his tongue in order to speak words that sustain the people. It was also God who opened his ears. God is both enabling and is the source of the servant’s prophetic calling, making possible both his speech and hearing.
Verse 6 is the main theme as it describes the the servant’s suffering at the hands of his enemies. This theme is directly related to the calling and message described in verses 4 and 5. It is important to point out that the servant does not receive this suffering passively. He actively chooses to accept the conflict that arises as a result of his proclamation. This last point emphasizes that suffering, in and of itself, is not something we receive secondhand. The suffering of the servant comes from speaking truth to the powerful.
Also, the servant was willing to suffer. 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 the servant 7:20; the servant 15:2; Nehemiah 13:25). How does he handle this? The servant concentrates his mind on the God. That action gives him the determination that he needs to carry on God’s work. That determination is the meaning of the word picture about flint. The language of a court of law shows the servant’s attitude. He has complete confidence in God’s judgement. The attacks of those who oppose him will be 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.
Items for Discussion
- Generally speaking, people do not want to suffer – What are the things you would suffer for?
- If you choose to suffer for a reason, how do justify the purpose to yourself?
- How do you personally handle suffering at the hands of others?
- In what way does God provide you comfort?
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. 31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Caesarea Philippi was in the north, near the source of the River Jordan. Philip, who was the ruler of that area, had built the city, naiming it Caesarea “Philippi’.” That showed that it was not the same place as Caesarea which belonged to his brother, Herod Antipas. Caesarea Philippi was a city that was full of temples to the Greek gods, and to the nature god, Pan. Jesus asks the disciples to tell Him who they think He is? The opinions that Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah are the same as those in 6:14. Another opinion was that Jesus was one of the prophets, not just like one of the prophets (6:14).
It was not enough for the disciples to know what other people thought. They must decide for themselves. The disciples had asked, ‘Who is this?’ (4:41). Jesus had spoken about the fact that they did not understand (8:17-21). But now Peter speaks for all the disciples. He made the bold statement, “You are the Christ.”
This incident comes in the middle of Mark’s Gospel. The first chapters record the works and words of Jesus as He invited people into God’s kingdom. From the time at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus taught that He must suffer. He explained what it means to be a disciple. And He began his journey to Jerusalem.
Peter uses the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Messiah the Jews were expecting would defeat their enemies. This person would lead an army against the Romans and he would gain political freedom for all Jews. Jesus did not want the disciples to encourage that belief. So He did not want them to say that He was the Messiah. The crowds might then stop Jesus from His plans to teach the true nature of the Messiah’s work. On three different occasions (8:31-33; 9:31-32; 10:32-34) Jesus tells his disciples He would suffer and die. This was the first occasion.
Then Jesus began to teach the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer greatly. The chief priests and the scribes and the other leaders would refuse to accept Him. They would kill Him. He would rise up three days later. Jesus said this clearly. Peter took him aside and began to protest against such an idea. But Jesus turned round. He saw His disciples, and He spoke very firmly to Peter. He said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking in men’s ways, not God’s ways.”
Jesus tells His disciples He will suffer on behalf of other people. He would be like the servant of God whom Isaiah described (Isaiah chapter 53). Here, the “Son of man” can refer to a picture that Daniel saw in his mind. (See Daniel 7:13-14.) In Daniel’s vision, someone called a “son of man” would receive authority and power from God. He would receive an *eternal *kingdom. The name that Jesus used for himself may therefore mean the same as “Messiah.”
Jesus said that He must suffer. He knew that his pain and death were part of God’s plan. God’s plan was to rescue mankind from sin. Matthew (16:21) and Luke (9:22) say “on the third day.” Mark says “three days later” because he included the first and the last day in the count. Peter and the other disciples understood what Jesus said. But they did not want to believe that these things would happen to Him. For them, talk about suffering was difficult to accept. It was only after Jesus’ death and resurrection that they were able to see’clearly. Then they understood why Jesus had to suffer.
Satan was tempting Jesus by means of Peter. It was the same temptation to avoid pain and trouble as in Luke 4:5-7. Then Satan was tempting Jesus. “Get behind me” was a command to Satan that he must stop tempting Jesus. It was also a command to Peter and the other disciples. Jesus meant, “I do not follow you. You should follow me and my ideas.” Peter may have spoken because of love for Jesus. But it was not his job to teach Jesus. He was to allow Jesus to teach him.
Now comes the really hard part. Jesus called the crowd and the disciples to him and says, “If anyone wants to come with me, let him say no to his own wishes and comfort. Let him carry his cross and follow me. Because anyone who wants to save his life will lose it.” Jesus was speaking not only to the 12 disciples, but also to anyone in the crowd who might follow Him. Jesus was honest. Jesus did not offer people an easy life. He did not try to persuade people to follow him. A disciple must forget his own wishes if he wants to follow Jesus. The Romans fixed criminals to a cross. That is how they punished them. The criminal had to carry part of his own cross to the place where the soldiers would kill him. Jesus said that those who followed him must be willing for the same shame and suffering as himself.
A selfish way to live will not give anyone a life on earth of true worth. It also means life on earth is of no value if a person loses the life with God after death. Some Christians suffer and die for their *faith. Those Christians know that they will gain life with God for all time. Possessions, power, pleasures and popularity are all temporary. What the world offers is nothing compared with the value of one’s soul for eternity. Our verses end with an instruction not to fear of the opinion or laughter of other people and be ashamed to declare our faith. Jesus said that He would then be ashamed of them. He referred to the time when he will come again. Then, he will return in the very bright light from his Father.
Items for Discussion
- How does a sacrifice help draw people together?
- Read Genesis 3:1-21 but especially 3:21 What was God’s purpose for creating the first sacrifice? Why is this just as relevant today for Jesus’ sacrifice?
- Why do you think the disciples still followed Jesus even though the job description was one of no pay, lots of suffering and death?
- The idea that if you believe in Jesus, your life will be filled with suffering and pain is not necessarily the good news we are called to spread. What would you tell your best friend the benefits are of a relationship with Jesus?
- How do we help other Christians around us lose the fear of sharing their testimony?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations