Read: Isaiah 53
Good Friday. Horrible Friday. Necessary Friday. I’ve always had trouble with the name we labeled for this day as we stop to remember that our savior was brutally tortured on a cross. Last night, Hope Fellowship provided a somber reminder of the process through The Way of the Cross, an expanded version of Stations of the Cross, that invites us to walk with Jesus from condemnation to the cross and beyond. At Hope Fellowship, the journey ends with an image of the resurrected Jesus, communion and an opportunity to pray. If it weren’t for resurrection of Jesus, all of this would be in vain as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) The Way of the Cross reminds of the resurrection and gives us images to ponder today, Good Friday.
I simply can’t begin to think about Good Friday without knowing we will soon celebrate Great Easter!
Beginning next week we’ll read Isaiah’s vision, rich prophecies that spoke to people in the southern kingdom (Judah) as the northern kingdom was swept away into Assyrian exile. Isaiah’s words were incredibly important to the kings who listened in his day, but for our benefit he was given visions of the future that speak to us today. The timeless nature of his words provide an overwhelming assurance that God has a plan, has always been in control and will bring the story of humanity to a close at some point according to his word.
1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
We have the great advantage of knowing the rest of the story when we read this incredible text. Jesus grew up like a root out of the ground, ordinary, unremarkable. As Brett Andrews alluded to in his sermon last week, Jesus’ entrance was anything but spectacular. If we would have written the story we would have had music, lights, parades, etc.–the world would know this is the king! But this is not God’s way of wooing back his people.
We held him in low esteem, we are the ones who had lost our way; sheep who have no clue. Who protested? No one could undo what was about to be done. Roman oppression was absolute. Once the process started, there was no undo. Some realization along the way was far too late. The Roman strategy of publicly humiliating those they punished served their earthly rule well. Those that might have been on the fence would immediately turn away from this man who is apparently a criminal.
Some were still convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Somewhere in the crowd Bartimaeus was watching with eyes renewed by this man Jesus (Mark 10:46-52). Others who were lame, lost, lonely–all could do nothing but let the spectacle of their savior unfold. Confused. Sad. Despondent.
Despite our inability to grasp what was happening, Jesus went to the cross. Whipped and beaten, unable to even carry the wooden device that would serve to hang him naked in front of everyone, Jesus accepted the journey.
Not the end.