“Oh my, you are tall.” If I had a dime for every time someone has uttered those words immediately after they meet me, I would be a wealthily man! I never played football when I was a kid, but as I grew people, random people mind you, would come up to me and say, “you are huge, do you play basketball?” or “do you play football?” I would say no and they would say something like, if I had your size I would, and the implication was that I would be a natural. Well when I transferred to Luther College for my Junior year, I thought I would give it a go. Without much of a clue I strapped on my pads and was a Norseman! Generally, it was a good experience, a learning and growing one too, but I was never really that good, my specialty was just taking up a fair amount of space, which comes in handy occasionally in football.
It is interesting to me the judgement calls we all make when we see someone. Throughout history physical traits have often been equated with blessing, potential and possibilities. We do it today, attractiveness, stature and other outward appearances that are judged as appealing are seen as positives and are somehow equated with talent, potential, skill and competence. Think about it when was the last time you saw a short, chubby, bald leading man? I don’t think Danny Devito was ever considered for the role of James Bond, nor has he ever graced People magazines 10 sexiest men. (At least as far as I know, and I am not researching it!) However, when you look at his work, , he is a fairly talented actor.
In the “Suffering Servant” passage from Isaiah 53, this notion of outward appearances somehow reflecting blessing, or some special status are flipped upside down. The suffering servant, is not much to look at, acquainted with infirmity and was held of no account. Yet it is this one, not attractive, not wealthy, not powerful, and likely not tall is the one who makes us whole.
As Christians we read this and see Jesus, and this is not inappropriate, but this passage also speaks to a larger vision. Outward characteristics are not what matters, the things we often value are not the things that bring God’s justice and reign into our world. It is often done in small unassuming ways. No brute force, no beauty pageants, but God’s love is most often shown in average, mundane, and even the unattractive things of life. This doesn’t mean that if you are good looking, successful, or tall that God can’t use you or those characteristics. What this means is that God is looking for servants, people to free themselves from themselves for the sake of others.
I’ll get things off the top shelf for you and if you are short, would you mind terribly getting things off the bottom shelf?