Despite a few mysterious prophetic texts that seemed to intimate this possibility, the idea that the Messiah could arrive and subsequently be killed was radically counter-intuitive to most of first-century Jews.
Yet the conviction of the early Christians, based on Jesus of Nazareth’s own teachings about himself, was that the radically counter-intuitive impossibility was actually prophesied, if one had the eyes to see and the ears to hear it in Israel’s Scriptures.
The Readings for this Mass offer us two of the most poignant prophecies of the suffering of the Messiah.
1. Isaiah 50:4-7, the First Reading, is part of one of the several enigmatic “servant songs” characteristic of the second part of Isaiah (Isaiah 40-66). (I follow Benjamin Sommer in seeing Isa 40-66 as a literary unit.) The subject of these “songs” or poems is a mysterious “servant” of the Lord, who is described variously in the first, second and third person: