The prophet Isaiah pulls on two images in talking about the Messiah: the divine warrior and the suffering servant. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Therefore, it is good to explore how Jesus filled up and appropriated those images in his life and death. In what way was Jesus a divine warrior? In what way was Jesus a suffering servant?
In Jesus’ day the people were looking for a divine warrior who would serve the people, Israel, by using violence to overthrow Roman rule and set the people free. The idea that the Messiah would suffer and die was inconceivable, even though Jesus said it over and over again.
In our day, people grab onto the suffering servant image and declare that Jesus won the battle over sin and death on the cross in order to set us free and give us eternal life. It is inconceivable to many in the West that Jesus would have anything at all to do with overthrowing oppressive powers in order to emancipate the oppressed.
Both then and now, there is an uneasy tension between being a divine warrior and a suffering servant at the same time. This tension causes people to grab a hold of one image and neglect the other.
So how does Jesus hold both images together as Messiah?
This is where Jesus is utterly unique. John Howard Yoder points out that in Jesus what you have is a non-violent divine warrior and a non-passive suffering servant. Think about that for a while and let it sink in.
Jesus battled the powers and principalities without violence. At the same time, Jesus suffered at the hand of those same powers and principalities without being a passive victim. In laying his life down freely, and refusing to use violence to advance a cause, he defeated death once and for all on behalf of all people.
His resurrection was, and is, His vindication by God through the power of the Spirit. It is God’s ultimate stamp of approval on the non-violent divine warrior and non-passive suffering servant, Jesus the Messiah.
Until we fully understand that, yield to it, and walk in the way of Jesus, we will continue to walk blind and confused through a dark world where suffering is for the weak and power comes through violence.
When we submit to the way of Jesus, we enter into God’s kingdom and live under God’s reign such that a light shines in the darkness and we can see that another world is possible. Indeed, another world is coming!
The only question left is will we yield and enter in?