A short reflection on the Suffering Servant
(It occurs to me that I should blog, especially since people who seem to know me are posting in my comment boxes.)
I am currently reading Fr. Paul Nadim Tarazi's commentaries on the Old Testament, and I came across the following passage about the "Suffering Servant" from Isaiah: "In contrast to Israel's habitual disobedience 'forcing' the Lord's hand, through the servant's perfect obedience God is now given the opportunity to do things completely his way, without interference, from beginning to end."
There is a curious juxtaposition here of the concept of obedience and that of freedom. The obedience of the servant leads to the freedom of God. If this is true, then it follows that the disobedience of the sinner puts constraints on God. Justice must be served, after all, if God is just. Consider the example from Amos 4, where God says how he had to send various plagues and droughts upon Israel, because they wouldn't return to him. It's like a father complaining about having to spank his child; if only the kid would behave as he ought, the father would be free in his actions.
To break the tiresome cycle of transgression/punishment requires that God be freed from the cycle. Note that God is not bound by some force external to him, but by his own justice, which is of course consequent on his goodness. To be good, God must be just. To be just means God must punish, or rather, that God must somehow make right what has been made wrong. Throughout the history of Israel this keeps happening. One gets the feeling, reading scripture, that it would never stop. The Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah obeys God perfectly, and therefore enables him freedom, the ability to do something completely new, to triumph over the requirements of justice and save us, "while we were yet sinners." (Rom 5:8) Instead of punishment, we have redemption. Instead of justice, we have justification. Instead of sacrifices, we have sanctification. All of these are free gifts of God, gifts made possible by the perfect obedience of Christ to the Father. God acts to free himself, through the mystery of the Incarnation.
Note, this is all theological speculation. I don't think anything here is wrong, but if it is, I'm not a heretic, for the simple reason that I don't want to be a heretic.