Find a Good Friday Service to attend if your church does not have one.
Reader: “He was pierced for our rebellion”
Response: “crushed for our iniquity.”
Scripture: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
(Additional readings on your own: Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42)
See, my servant will prosper;
he will be highly exalted.
But many were amazed when they saw him.
His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,
and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.
And he will startle many nations.
Kings will stand speechless in his presence.
For they will see what they had not been told;
they will understand what they had not heard about.
Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
Reader: “The Lamb of God”
Response: “who takes away the sin of the world”
Isaiah 52 and 53 are key prophetic passages in the First Testament and in some Jewish circles, chapter 53 is the “forbidden” chapter. The words of Isaiah clearly refer to Jesus and the Passion. Let’s look a little closer at the text and its structure.
Twice he is referred to as “my servant,” a phrase so associated with Jesus in his final days on earth and demonstrated so clearly in the washing of the disciples’ feet. As was (and is) often the case, Jesus was not what the people expected. In the end, he is exalted, but there are no indications of such at the beginning. This pericope describes the beating and humiliation of Christ on Good Friday. People were amazed when they saw what the soldiers had done to him. They virtually pulverized him almost beyond recognition as a human. Jesus looked nothing like a rescuer as he stood silently before his accusers. How could this one be the powerful savior of the world? Who could actually believe this was God’s plan? Then we come to a list of attributes, descriptions and correlations explaining and describing this servant.
Apparently this servant was rather plain. There was no outward beauty or charisma. He didn’t look like you would expect the Son of God to look. He wasn’t handsome, but on the low side of “ordinary.” He was rejected, even disliked and actually despised. He experienced much sorrow and great grief in his lifetime. In his moments of great loss, people ignored him. In truth, they didn’t really care about him at all and thought he had done something wrong. God was paying him back. He was viewed as a kind of loser because the things he went through were perceived to be his own fault. It was assumed he was getting what he deserved. Are we talking about Jesus? So much for the human viewpoint. Now to God’s viewpoint.
The truth is, he was pierced because of our persistent, continual rebellion against God. He was crushed by God because of our sins. He was beaten so that we might experience wholeness, shalom, with God, and he was whipped so we could be healed in our relationship to God and could be restored. Crushing, beating, and whipping were the usual punishments for crime. In this case, our crime was sinning against God. He took what should rightly have been ours.
Sheep have a natural tendency to wander off. Growing up, we had sheep on our farm. They are stubborn, dumb, near sighted and very easily frightened, but their hearing is excellent. That Isaiah compares us to sheep is really quite accurate! Is there any doubt that our society and culture have left God’s path to follow our own brilliant way, shutting out the voice of God? Humans are definitely sheep following the flock wherever it goes. Sheep are not independent thinkers. They are followers. Unfortunately, sheep today follow the loudest shepherd with little discernment as to the shepherd’s voice or where they are headed.
God has laid upon the servant the sins of everyone who has ever lived. In spite of the horrendous fatal burden of bearing the sins of the world, the servant never said a word. He was silent throughout. I’ve mentioned in previous year’s devotionals how sheep are silent when they are being sheared. They just sit quietly on their bottoms as the wool is removed. Our servant was led away, a man who remained silent as he was unjustly condemned. Having done nothing wrong, he was killed and buried like a criminal and virtually no one cared.
As it was, his life was the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Since he had no sin of his own as a human, this God-man was able to carry our sin effectively, and God’s justice was perfectly eternally satisfied. He died the death we should have died. As a result, we gain the life of one who is viewed by God as righteous. This servant is accorded great honor having utterly destroyed the power of sin, death and hell. He made the way for countless people to be healed, forgiven and restored to God and freed from the stranglehold of sin. This is the day that life-shattering transaction occurred. The glory is, this power of Christ continues to transform lives in our day!
Music: “All We Like Sheep” from Messiah Robert Shaw Chorale
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g799LFGqiv8 Note the “joy” of the disobedient, frolicking sheep and the contrast of “and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Handel got it and Shaw understood it.
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded” Fernando Ortega
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded”
Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century
O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown,
O sacred head, what glory,
what bliss till now was thine,
yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call thee mine.
What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners’ gain,
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
and grant to me thy grace.
What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to thee.
Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross. He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon his face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We venerate thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also thy glorious Resurrection. ―Hymns for Good Friday, Orthodox