Reflection April 19

 

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
 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.
 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.

 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
 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.
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.

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.
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.
 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.

Isaiah 53:1-9

 

 A Common Occurrence. The inhabitants of an ancient Roman province would have grown accustomed to seeing crucifixion. Rome publically crucified criminals as a warning not to challenge its authority. The brutality of the punishment reinforced the message. Scourged with whips, then nailed to a tree, it took hours, sometimes days, for the person to die. The sight of a crucifixion reminded people of Rome’s power and control. For the people on their way into Jerusalem, the sight of the Romans crucifying a group of criminals probably elicited a moment’s pity, and a shutter thinking about the next victim.

 

Isaiah’s prophecy described the man hanging on the cross as unremarkable. Nothing in his appearance attracted attention. Indeed, after having endured a beating many despised and rejected him. It appeared to be just another crucifixion in a remote part of the empire. Yet, the significance of the event lay hidden. The beating wounded him, but his wounds are the means by which “we are healed.” His guards forced him to carry his cross and in so doing “he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” The soldiers drove nails through his body thus piercing him “for our transgressions” and crushing him “for our iniquities.” The greatest exchange in history had taken place. God had placed all of our sin, sorrow, iniquities, and infirmities on Jesus. Yet, most of Jerusalem’s population probably went home and prepared for the Sabbath, oblivious to the magnitude of what had taken place.

 

As we go about the observance of Good Friday, let us remind ourselves of two things. First, in a remote part of an ancient empire, the barely noticed death of one man took all of our sin and its consequences away. God used the power of an empire which did not know him, to unleash the power to know him in all the empire. Second, God continues to work behind the scenes. Few of us have the ability with our beauty, talent, or money to command the world’s attention. Our lives can feel unimportant. Yet in unseen realms the most significant acts and lives may be those receiving the least notice.

Gary Hiebsch

Harvest