In each of today’s readings, misfortune, abuse, hostility, and even betrayal abound. In Psalm 70, physical abuse and misfortune are the plight for which protection from God is requested (and “hurry, please!”). Insults, being spat upon, and beard being yanked are described in Isaiah 50: 4-9a. Hebrews 12: 1-3 reminds us of the hostility and suffering that Jesus endured. And John 13: 21-32 provides the setting in which Jesus identifies the man who will betray him.
Pain, abuse, ridicule, and suffering could be viewed as the major focus of these readings, and they certainly were clearly depicted in the texts. But to focus on them and the negative emotions they conjure may divert us from understanding what actions we contemporary Christians should undertake based upon today’s lessons.
What might those actions be? Perhaps the first is an attitude check rather than a specific action. Isaiah says it clearly: “The Lord God helps me. . . . Who will declare me guilty? Stand against the attacks. Do not hide your face. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.”
Isaiah also offers insight into the second action to take—to have the “tongue of a teacher” and to sustain the weary with a word. How will the Truth be carried forward into the next thousand years if today’s believers do not sustain the weary with the words describing the teachings of Jesus?
The third action, also suggested in Isaiah, is to have “the ear of a listener.” Listen to the word, and listen to the needs of those around you. Eyes to see, ears to hear, mouth to speak, and hands to work.