When did Isaiah write “all flesh is grass”?
It is the beginning of the passage on the Suffering Servant, Isa chapters 40 to 55 (sometimes known as Second Isaiah). This passage, declaring “all flesh is grass” is complemented by another passage at the end of this section, framing the unique and essential Suffering Servant prophecy.
All four Evangelists begin the narrative of Jesus’ public ministry with explicit definitive identification of John the Baptist as the “Voice” crying in the wilderness. This essential identification with the “Voice” in Isaiah 40, places the Suffering Servant in the center of all Four Canonical Gospels.
In Isaiah 40, the “Voice” crying in the wilderness cries to God: “what shall I cry?” The Lord replies: “This is what you shall cry: All flesh is grass… but the Word of the Lord will stand forever.” At the end of the Suffering Servant passage (Isaiah 55), Isaiah completes the prophecy regarding the “Word of the Lord” saying: “My Word shall not return to me void… it shall not return until it accomplishes that for which it was Sent.” This summarizes the movement of the Suffering Servant — as Jesus says “the seed must die” — going forth and returning to the Lord: death and resurrection.
“It shall not return until it accomplishes that for which it was Sent,” also prefigures the Apostolic Church.
The Word was Sent: this describes the Second Person of the Trinity Sent to Redeem the world. The word, “apostle”, literally means “the One Sent.” Jesus is theWord of the Lord. Jesus is the First Apostle. Isaiah is the Proto-Apostle (sent by the Lord in chapter 6). At the end of the Final Gospel (John chapter 20-21), Jesus says to His disciples in the upper room on the day of His Resurrection: “As the Father Sends Me, so I Send you.” Jesus Sends the Apostles with the full divine Authority of the Son of God. The “all flesh is grass” passage, framing the Suffering Servant, points directly to this Apostolic Church.
When Isaiah wrote “all flesh is grass,” he meant that all human beings must die.
Human beings are mortals.
And to be a “mortal” is to be intrinsically, inescapably “subject to death” (“mort” means death, so our very name — “mortals” — has “death” in it).
This mortality is common, universal. We all share in it. And this could and should be a motive for profound compassion. (“Compassion” means, literally, “suffering with,” from “cum” (with) and “passio,” a form of the Latin word “patior,” to suffer.)
Each of us is, in fact, “suffering with” all other human beings, in so far as each of us shares a common, innate, intrinsic destiny: to grow old and die. This means that each of us is quite literally always in a condition of “compassion,” “suffering with.” We are literally “compassionate” by nature.
But often we do not sense this, or understand its profound meaning.
(Note: the rest of this letter is missing).