Isaiah is a favorite of Christians, not because he is an easy read—few prophets are—and not because he is brief—66 chapters—but because he included so many visions of the Messiah.
What is not as well known among Christians is that Isaiah was also a favorite of First Century Jews who expected the Messiah to appear at any moment. But neither the First Century Jews nor the Twenty-first Century Christians cared much for today’s reading.
I Offered My Back to Those Who Beat Me. NLT This Messiah is not a warrior. He does not stand up for his rights or even defend himself. We love our heroes and find it embarrassing to follow in the footsteps of such a milk toast. Why didn’t Jesus come the way everyone expected him to, on a war horse with sword and shield in hand?
And yet, once a year we Christians celebrate the death of the man, Jesus, who literally gave his back as a whipping post and his body as a sacrifice.
Philippians 2:6 is the key verse. The literal translation from the United Bible Society is: who in form of God existing not thing to be grasped did regard to be equal with God. The Greek word, harpagmon, can mean grasping, or robbing, or snatching, all of which mean or suggest that it should not be done. This is the only time it is used in the New Testament and its meaning is derived from all the other ancient Greek writings.
Here are several versions of the verse:
His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God. NJB
For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal. Phillips
Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force. CJB
Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. KJV
He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. GNT
Notice what happened in the King James translation. All the others are stated in the negative, but KJ says that Jesus thought it was alright to grab equality. Not only does that violate the Greek text itself, it violates the whole of the Gospel of Jesus.
The Lion came as a Lamb. The Messiah unites the two. The contradiction is beyond our human abilities, yet Jesus did ask his followers to strive to be lambs while retaining the strength of the lion.
Jesus, filled with the power of the Lion, walked to the Mount of Olives and waited for the armed soldiers to arrive. He had to power to stop them, even to evade them, but he stood like the Lion, waiting for the confrontation. And like the Lamb, he bared his back.
I can only be a lamb when I am filled with the Lion.
Be righteous and do good.