Our Servant King and our service, Isaiah 50 and Lamentations, Palm Sunday, April 2nd 2023

Our Servant King and our service, Isaiah 50 and Lamentations, Palm Sunday, April 2nd 2023

Palm Sunday, Sermon. April 5th 2020.

Matthew 21:1-11, Isaiah 50:4-10.

And Lamentations.

‘’This is our God, the Servant King, he calls us now to follow him, to bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.

So let us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone him. Each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ whom we’re serving…’’

Some of you probably are humming that now… from Servant King, Graham Kendrick.

Isaiah 50 is about service. It is one of the 4 Servant Songs – chapters 42, 49, 50 and 53.

In these chapters, Israel is described as the servant but then the focus shifts to an individual. In the NT, Jesus takes on this identity.

He is the Servant par excellence.

Paul, when preaching in Acts 13, says : ‘We are now turning to the Gentiles, for so the Lord has commanded us, saying: ‘I made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ He quote Isaiah 49. We as servants of the Servant King, we continue to be about the Servant Kings’ work.

What is the Servant called to do? Reading the Servant songs we we see: The servant is called to bring God’s truth and justice to the nations. To be a light to others who do not know.

How is the Servant to act. The Servant will not be someone who snuffs out a smouldering wick, he will not be someone who breaks a bruised reed. These beautiful words applied to Jesus ministry in Matthew 12. Most people, trample down a reed – it cannot be used; a bit of candle wick, we get a new one. The Servant, Jesus is the one who binds up, heals, supports the bruised. He does not stub out, he seeks to fan into flame.

Consider the apostle Peter, and how it all goes for him in this Holy Week.  It all began so well – entering Jerusalem, the crowds cheering!

Then on the Thursday, Peter and John are sent to make preparations for the Passover, what an honour.

Yet 24 hours later, he is truly bruised, the flame is at such a low.

He had denied his Lord, publically. He didn’t go to cross, like John or stand at a distance like some of the women followers.

Yet on Easter Sunday – as Mark 16 records: The Angel says: ‘He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples, and Peter.’ Tell Peter.  Jesus says there is ‘hope.’

Healing begins for the bruised, broken. And on that beach over breakfast in Galillee, in John 21, Jesus brings that healing fully and fans into flame Peter.

Isaiah 50: the Servant is to bring a word, to ‘sustain the weary’. Jesus, who rides in on that donkey, to all the praises, he is the one who says – ‘all you who are weary and heavy laden, come to me and rest’.  He is One who seeks to heal the broken, who does not disregard the vulnerable or damaged or hurt.

As Servants of the Servant King, we are to be about the Servants work, we are to bring his light, his truth, his justice, to others; we are to bind and heal and to fan into flame;  

And we are to do this with the resources of God – as Isaiah 42 speaks: I will put my Spirit on him.  Jesus was empowered by the Spirit. Jesus promised the Spirit to his followers at the Last Supper. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5.

But there’s more!

Isaiah 50. The Servant who listens in order that they can speak. ‘’The Lord has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning. He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.’’.

It is possible that someone can be so full of words that it increases and not reduces someone’s weariness.  

There is a time to speak.

There is a time to listen.  

To listen to understand the precise nature of someone’s weariness.

How to be that word that sustains.

Theologian John Goldingay:

‘’The key to his having them, is the fact that he listens for them. The secret is to have a disciples’ tongue, a mouth that speaks what the ears have learned.’’  

The starting place is in the phrase : disciple’s tongue (translated as ‘well instructed tongue)’. The Servant has done his learning, he is soaked in the Scriptures. 

The Servant points us to : Who knows how to sustain the weary? 

It is Yahweh, the Lord God. ‘’The Sovereign LORD has given me a well instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.’’

The words of Yahweh. 

Jesus modeled this. Jesus said the night before he died – Maundy Thursday : ‘The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.’’ (John 14). And again, ‘’I have called you friends, for everything I learned from the Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. …  This is my command. Love each other.’’ (John 15).  

The challenge of the Servant, the challenge of Jesus.  To be taught, to have the tongue of disciple.  So we can sustain the weary. So we can show our love to each other.

This naturally asks, as we have returned to, from time to time in Lent, about the time we choose to set aside to be with the Lord.  The Servant says : ‘’he wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.’’

The Servant daily was being taught. 

Focused time. It is so hard if we grab a few minutes in the word, over breakfast, then into work and that becomes our daily pattern – and we say, God does not speak, I have nothing from my storehouses to give out.

You know, the Servant thinks about the word to sustain the weary. You may be the weary one he seeks to sustain. The bruised one he seeks to heal. The stub he seeks to fan into flame. Think.

Where in this week – can I set aside some quality time with the Lord.  The Lord who seeks to sustain you, the weary. And the words we receive as we spend time, he may use them to sustain others we know who are weary? It is the apostle Paul who says ‘’we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.’’ 2 Cor 1.

That leads me into a tool we want to share with you this week.

Our Holy Week devotionals. Daily, there will be a devotional offered – to read or to listen to – by a member of All Saints. We will be sharing from Lamentations across the week – a chapter or most of a chapter per day…

Why Lamentations?  5 Reasons.

Lamentations is about the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem. The monarchy has ended, the Jews are taken from the land into exile. Loss of monarchy, land, city, temple. All due to Israel’s sin down through many years. It is a book expressing the experiences, the feelings, the voices of those who suffered. It is a book after destruction but before restoration. It is a book between what seemed to be the end and before resurrection.

The early church saw in this book, a connection with Holy Week and especially Holy Saturday. The devastation of the cross, and yet Easter had not come.

Secondly it is a book, reminds us about sin. Jerusalem is destroyed due to sin. Jesus ‘we all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him, the iniquity of us all.’’ Sin is serious. God is seriously loving and seriously holy. Sin is so serious to God. It is so awesome that we do not need to deal with this problem. As Paul puts it ‘God made him who had no son to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’’

Third. In the 5 poems, esp in chapter 3, we see and hear many references which can be applied to Jesus.

He is deserted by friends

He is mocked by enemies

There is apathy from passers by.

He is stripped naked.

He suffered.

Feels abandoned.

4th . Language

Often this book is neglected or not really engaged with. Yet to neglect it and other lament writings –such as some of the psalms like 88-  deprives us the church of the language of lament – as theologian CH Wright says, Lament is ‘’a whole genre and vocabulary given to us by God, it is in the Word for a reason.’’ There is lament on the lips of Jesus on Good Friday ‘ My God my God why have you forsaken me’, where he quotes Psalm 22.

Do we lament?

We live in a global village. Our lives may be comfortable and okay. But for many, it is not, injustice, persecution, suffering through war or famine, earthquake, flood.  Do we not have a call to ‘weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn’? (Romans 12:15). To cry out to God, to lament?

5th. Growth.

To not faithfully read Lamentations, means we miss the challenge of the book and the reward of wrestling with the ‘massive theological issues that permeate its poetry.’’ Sometimes as we wrestle, like Jacob by the river, we come out, with a greater view of who he is, perhaps changed in our walk with him forever.

The Book asks – can our centre hold? Can there be  faith in YHWH?  Yes, the Book says the centre can hold and it does – right in the central section of the book, we hear Lam 3:21-24

21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.’

So this Holy Week, I invite you to set aside a little extra time each day – read or listen to the devotional, use the prayer included, to listen to the song or hymn recommended.  And may the Lord us those devotions to help sustain you, if you are weary. Or to give you the words to sustain the weary you know…

Finally. The Servant is one who accepts affliction as the price of ministry.  

We read: The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, I have not been rebellious I have not turned away I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard, I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.

The LORD has spoken. The Servant will not draw back or be rebellious. The price for the Servant to be willing and obedient to bring God’s word to the weary, is to feel his enemies lashes on his back, their mockery, their spitting, the physical harm.

Jesus chose to enter the city.  He knew what faced him. He knows it is the will of the Father. He has heard his voice. He walks into Jerusalem, with the crowds, on the donkey, knowing what it will mean.

Winston Churchill. Was called Britain ‘s greatest leader. Yet when he read about him, you learn that in the First World War, he had resign from office, because of the failed Gallipoli campaign. He failed spectacularly yet he leaned not to give up.

There is a story. He went later to his old school. He was asked to speak to the boys. Towards the end of the speech he said: ‘’Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the overwhelming might of the enemy.’’

Jesus never gave in through this week. He knew the will of the Father. He did not give up.  Jesus entered the city. He offered his back to the beaters – as he was beaten by the guards at the Sandhedrin, and by the Roman soldiers on Good Friday morning. He was mocked upon at the cross – yet he prayed for those who mocked him.


We can listen. We know God’s work he invites us to.

We have the promise of his power.

He invites us to receive the word where we are weary, or to be the one who he will use to sustain the weary.

We are to be obedient, even if costly.

Jesus was. So we can be.

A Prayer for today and for this Holy Week…

Thanks be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits which you have won for me,

for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,

may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.