my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coast lands will wait for his teaching.
Yesterday we saw Jesus entering Jerusalem, "on a colt, the foal of an ass." Despite the noisy reception of the excited crowd -- rumors of his arrival had been ripping around the city for months -- his coming was unpretentious.
Today's first reading from Isaiah serves as a formal announcement to the City by God Himself, "Here is my servant...."
Even the ancient world knew that leaders should be servants of the gods and of the people. Jesus' teaching about the first and the last is hardly original or unique. However, power corrupts the spirit of generosity; it erodes one's sense of fellowship with others. Even those who practice self-awareness and try to maintain a sense of solidarity with others will find themselves isolated. Friends become acquaintances, acquaintances become strangers, and strangers become all too friendly.
As this week unfolds we will watch isolation suffocate and swallow Jesus as disciples pull away and enemies close in. The one to whom "all authority in heaven and on earth" is given must suffer an all-consuming death. He will heal the sick, reconcile enemies, forgive sins, arouse mercy, and raise from the dead; but he must first descend into this fatal vortex of violence.
He cannot enjoy even the suasion of the pathetic which elicits a natural sympathy. To our shame, we are like the Egyptian pharaoh who could feel no compassion for the Hebrew slaves; we could not even feel sorry for the man:
...there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.