In the days of Holy Week, the Church presents select passages from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. These particular passages are known as the “servant” texts, and in these texts the prophet Isaiah foresees the work of the Messiah and how the Messiah will effect the transformation of Israel.
Remember, the Messiah is a person of extraordinary power, whom the prophets believed would effect the restoration of the Israelites, elevating them to a glory that surpassed the glory of their greatest kings. The Messiah would gather the remnant people of Israel from exile, restore their worship and temple, defeat the enemies of the Israelites and reign forever as Lord, not only of the Israelites, but of the whole world.
How this would be accomplished is described in the “servant” texts of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and what the prophet has to say is truly surprising. How so? The prophet Isaiah foresaw that the Messiah, the “servant” would accomplish these mighty deeds through a humility before God and man that would manifest itself in suffering and death, and once this suffering and death was accomplished, the Messiah would manifest his true power and the restoration of Israel would be revealed.
The worldly believe that great and mighty deeds are accomplished through acts of power manifested in violence. Isaiah foresaw that God would reveal his power in humility and a love that refuted the violence of the worldly.
We Christians believe that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah and that through his suffering and death he has effected not only the restoration of Israel, but of the world in a surprising, extraordinary way. The Church believes that the “servant” texts refer to Christ the Lord and what Isaiah foresaw in visions is realized in flesh and blood in the Lord Jesus.
The great mystery of Christ the Lord’s revelation is that he manifests his power, the power of God, not through worldly violence, but through a love that is willing to suffer and die with us and for us. Through this love the fulfillment of the Messianic promises come about and the “servant” texts of prophet Isaiah reach their startling fulfillment.
There is a great foreboding that overshadows the Gospel proclamation for today and tomorrow. The Gospel places emphasis on the sad figure of Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of the Lord Jesus.
The Gospel only hints at the motivations of Judas for his betrayal of Christ, and as if ultimately confounded by his reasoning, surmises that the poor man acted as if possessed by dark powers. It seems that for Judas that the Lord Jesus was a disappointment, a false Messiah, because he would not manifest his power in worldliness, in accord with Judas’ expectations.
Judas wanted the Lord Jesus to act in accord with his expectations, which were worldly expectations serving desires for wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. For Judas, the Lord Jesus was merely a tool, a means to his own ends, a ladder that he would climb to achieve his own success.
Judas, angry and disappointed that Christ the Lord would not conform to his expectations, sought to punish the Lord Jesus in the most humiliating and cruel way he could devise.
Our own refusals of Christ might not be as dark and sinister as that of Judas, but that doesn’t mean that our refusals simply do not matter or that their impact cannot be just as severe.
How often do we treat the Lord Jesus as merely a tool, a means to get something that we want? Do we plot and conspire to use Christ the Lord and his Church as a means to advance our petty causes and worldly agendas?
Judas’ refusal to love what Christ loves and serve what Christ serves drove him to distraction and then to betrayal, plotting to destroy Christ. The tragedy is that he destroyed not Christ, but himself.
The liturgical readings today provoke a question we must each ask ourselves: What are our own refusals to love what Christ loves and serve what Christ serves doing to our own lives and the lives of others?