A Lord of Hosts Who Came to Serve

by Edmond Lo
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 53:10 - 11

Hebrews 4:14 - 16

Mark 10:35 - 45

Husband, garden keeper, only son, liberator, Passover lamb, rock, manna, bronze serpent, branch, shepherd king, priest, prophet, bridegroom… Of all the rich images that the Old Testament books of the Bible give us to help us recognize the Messiah, “servant” is perhaps one that really stands out as the most unexpected.

Why? God the Almighty, who created heaven and earth, who is the Lord of Hosts (armies), and in whose presence "we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake” (Psalm 46:3-4), was somehow just a lowly servant when He arrived as the Messiah? Isn’t the idea a little hard to grasp for the human mind or even bizarre?

Hard to grasp it is, but bizarre not. The fact of the matter is: it is all too easy for our minds to lapse into some kind of "holy nonchalance” when we are reading the Bible. "Yes…true enough…amen...of course...” - nodding off and saying yes to everything without thinking them through is how many of us read the Bible. A smart and magnificent writer that the Divine Author of the Bible was, He built into His sacred works many puzzling characters, unusual terms, and unexpected plots to wake us up from our "holy slumber”, making us flinch and pinching the numbness in our heads, until we blurt out in protest and disbelief: "A servant? How can this possibly make sense?”

Make sense it does if we truly understand why the Messiah came. "For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). The Lord of Hosts giving away His Only Son for us lowly mortals? How? Why? Reviewing further the first reading, our holy slumber quickly turns into a wide-eyed and unbelievable journey, a Wizard-of Oz kind of experience:

  • Referring to Jesus’ Passion and death, the reading tells us God would "crush him in infirmity”;
  • As a suffering servant, he was to "give his life as an offering for sin”;
  • As a result of his sin offering "he shall see his descendants (us) in a long life (giving us everlasting life)”;
  • By doing what he did "the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him”;
  • He would then be resurrected and "shall see the light in fullness of days”;
  • God’s plan of salvation was succinctly summed up this way: “through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear”. Indeed, Jesus, our Servant, paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay!

Now we understand why the Lord of Hosts would choose to manifest His almighty power and infinite ability to save all of us by humbling Himself and taking on the lowliness of a “servant”. As Jesus reminded the apostles, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44).

Sometimes I wonder if it’s really a good idea to read the Bible before going to sleep. Why? I don’t know about you but the Bible always keeps me wide awake!