Isaiah 49 contains the second of the four servant songs in the Book of Isaiah. Here the servant expresses both the past and future aspects of God’s plan. Israel has been called into a covenant relationship with God that will advance God’s glory and fulfill the ancient promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world. Although the servant will encounter difficulties and seemingly be thwarted, God’s mission will not only succeed but will flourish far beyond local expectations by extending to all the world. Christians believe that in his complete faithfulness to God’s purposes, Jesus serves as the embodiment of Israel who completes this covenant mission.
Psalm 71 is a hymn of complete trust in God’s protection. God’s providence extends across a lifetime, even amidst all life’s challenges and threats. God is the refuge and fortress that travels with us through all aspects of life.
In the reading from 1st Corinthians, Paul acknowledges that such trust in God will appear foolish to those who do not experience it. From the perspective of human nature and culture, it does not look like those who follow Christ are making a smart move. From the perspective of human nature and culture, it makes more sense to trust in the power that comes from popularity or social status or wealth or physical force or group might.
But in the reading from John, Jesus proclaims that true life comes in a way we humans do not expect. Jesus’ claim that true life is gained only by giving away our life in love and service to both friends and enemies is ridiculous to those who have not heard and heeded Christ’s call. We all much too easily forget that real Christianity does not conform to the “sensible” way of thinking we learn in our culture. To find ourselves actually following Christ not just in words but in practice will always shock us. It will not have been what we expected or were comfortable with. To become children of light as Jesus called is to turn our comfortable world upside down.