Heidelcast 168: As It Was In The Days Of Noah (14): Peter’s Theology Of Suffering

There is a thread running through the book of Isaiah, which some have called the Gospel of Isaiah. It is that of the servant. The prophet himself is described as the servant (עבד) of Yahweh (Isa 20:3). David is also Yahweh’s servant (Isa 37:55) as is Israel (Isa 41:8, 9). There is, however, an anonymous servant upon whom Yahweh will put his Spirit, in whom Yahweh delights, who will bring forth judgment (מִשְׁפָּ֖ט) to the nations. Beginning in Isaiah 52:13, the prophet sings the song of servant again. In this song, the servant is paradoxically “lifted up” and also marred beyond recognition (Isa 52:14). He is “oppressed and afflicted,” like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 53:7). It is Yahweh’s will to “crush him” and to make him a guilt offering (53:10) but as a result of this horrible suffering the righteous, suffering servant shall make many righteous by bearing their sins (Isa 53:11). Nevertheless, the servant who was crushed as substitutionary, propitiatory (wrath-turning), offering lives and makes intercession for us (Isa 53:12). The song ends where it begins, with the exaltation of the suffering servant. The New Testament tells us explicitly the identity of that suffering servant. His name is Jesus. Philip heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading (out loud) this very servant song from Isaiah. Like many interpreters then and now the Ethiopian was puzzling over the identity of the servant in this song. Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Philip “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). We know from Hebrews 7:25 that it is Jesus who “always lives to make intercession for” his people. In our passage for this episode, the Apostle Peter reflects on these themes and teaches us a theology or an eschatology of suffering, which has come to be known as a “theology of the cross” (theologia crucis). This was familiar to our older theologians and our Reformed forebears. The churches in Belgium, in the period the Belgic Confession (1561) was being written, referred to themselves as “churches under the cross.” More broadly, the Swiss Second Helvetic Confession taught such an eschatology and explicitly rejected the notion of future earthly glory.



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