Scripture scholars have long debated the identity of the suffering servant in Isaiah. There are many possibilities. Isaiah uses the term my servant for the whole Jewish nation, as well as a faithful remnant within it. It may well refer to an unknown contemporary, maybe even the prophet himself. Others think it a reflection on a Biblical hero like Moses or Jeremiah. Or it could be looking ahead to a Messianic figure in the future.
I think that they are all correct. I believe that in every age God saves and in every age the work of salvation includes great suffering. Those whom God chooses to be His instruments, be they individuals or nations, will share more deeply in the nature of God. God is love, and to love is to be willing to suffer. The Lord fashioned creation with this truth at its heart--redemption is painful and suffering love saves. If we would love another then we will suffer. Let us be clear, it is Jesus who does this perfectly.
Why? True Love is self emptying. We humans are not capable of complete love, but even in our imperfect loving we know that if you open your heart to love, it can and will be hurt. Love makes us vulnerable and weak because love does not rule or control the other. Love is self gift in the power of weakness. The cost of love is suffering. True love is constantly forgiving the debt that is owed. To forgive the debt is to absorb its consequences. Forgiveness is suffering for another to save them from heir sin. This is why God suffers with us and for us in Jesus Christ. God Incarnate joins us because love forgives the one who walks away and love seeks out the one who is lost.
The world uses power to oppress. The demonic is self-seeking. The flesh would compel us to match violence with violence, hatred with hatred, strength with strength. The world, the flesh and the devil bid us to embrace what is evil in the name of defeating the other. God teaches that evil can only be defeated by goodness, goodness poured out in suffering love. God constantly saves us in and through those who will pay the price of suffering love. The Son is always among us taking upon Himself our sins, our suffering and our dying.
Jesus suffers and dies with us because our union with God (theosis) is a two way street--He abides in us and we in Him. God becomes one of us in Jesus, so Jesus embraces even the most wretched aspects of our existence. This is the revelation of the cross: the Messiah God who negates Himself to find those He loves and invite them out of the darkness into His light.
God gave us the freedom to choose sin and death, and we did. The gift of freedom rendered God powerless to prevent our fall. But our God heard the cries of His foolish children and out of love He emptied Himself into our fallen state. He refused to let suffering and death be the end of our story. Jesus, God Incarnate joined us. His suffering redeemed human suffering and His death redeemed from death. It is what love does--it suffers so to save. There is more to this story but it waits for Sunday....