Read Isaiah 53
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Why are You so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalms 22:1)
When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.
His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
Good Friday. What is so good about Friday of Holy Week? Isn’t this the day that Jesus of Nazareth was put through a mock trial, was found guilty of blasphemy by the religious leaders, sent to Pontius Pilate to be publicly tried, was found guilty of treason against Rome, was whipped, beaten, and crucified? Why in the world would we ever consider this particular Friday good?
Indeed, in terms of what happened to Jesus on that Friday, it was NOT a good Friday. It was the worst of Fridays for him, for his disciples, for his family and for his friends. It was the worst of Fridays for those who put their hope in him as the Jewish messiah, the liberator of the Jews from Roman occupation.
A brief note on the term messiah. The term comes from the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (pronounced maw-shee’-ak), which in Greek is Χριστός (pronounced khris-tos’). This of course is the word that transliterates into Christ in English. The Jews had many different understandings of who the messiah would be, and what his role would be. With that said, the predominant understanding in Jesus’ day was that he would be a king that would rise up out of King David’s lineage, would come from Bethlehem, and would establish his kingdom and reign forever (through royal lineage). This king would overthrow the foreign occupiers, and re-establish Judah/Israel as a united sovereign kingdom.
Yet, that is NOT all the Bible had to say about who this messiah would be. In Daniel, the prophet foresees a divine “one like a son of man” coming on the clouds to overthrow the oppressive world order and establish God’s Kingdom.
Isaiah talked about a “suffering servant” through whom the sins of the world would be redeemed. Isaiah wrote that this was God’s plan for this appointed sufferer, and wrote of this person that “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.” (Isaiah 53:11 NLT)
That is what makes GOOD FRIDAY SO GOOD! Yes, Jesus suffered terribly for those who did not deserve it! Yes, it was not a good day for Jesus or his family or followers. But it WAS…AND IS…Good Friday. If this is still hard to understand, think of someone like Oscar Schindler Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who suffered tremendously (and died) in order to help Jews escape Nazi Germany and who worked tirelessly, and unsuccessfully, to bring down the Adolph Hitler. Or the suffering of Harriet Tubman and others to liberate slaves through the Underground Railroad. While their suffering was not good, it was necessary to liberate countless people. Their suffering was not good, but the moment of liberation was to celebrate!
Good Friday, which marks the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, also marks the fulfillment of God’s promise to liberate humanity from its sin and separation from God. Now, through Jesus Christ, all human beings were given the blessed opportunity to be forgiven for their sins and reunited with their Creator. This is not just good news, THIS IS GREAT NEWS! We do not celebrate the torturous capital punishment of our Lord; rather, we celebrate the good news of liberation from sin, evil and death as a result of his selfless sacrifice. This celebration begins on Good Friday, and culminates on Easter Sunday, when we are given the assurance that in Jesus Christ, sin and death ARE NO MORE!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There can be no resurrection without death.
Lord, help me to die to my sins and liberate me from my old self. Redeem me and recreate me so that I may fully live into your image in which I was created. Amen.
Let this virtual journey through the stations of the cross be a point of reflection for you on this Good Friday.
Every year, Christians the world over observe the final week of Jesus’ life, which ends the season of Lent and propels us to resurrected life outside the empty tomb. With that said, in order to experience resurrection and the eternal life that comes from it, one must first experience the passion, the death, and the depths of the cold, dark, dank and hollow tomb. Walk with Jesus as starts his Holy Week journey being hailed a king and finishes it being crucified an enemy of the empire. Enter the dark uncertainty, of the grief-stricken tomb and experience the transformative power of the resurrection on Easter Sunday, when the unthinkable happens, Jesus is RISEN and walks out of the tomb alive! Celebrate Holy Week and encounter the Risen Lord of all Creation, and experience the resurrection through the One who conquered sin and death.
Today’s devotion is SON OF GOD: Good Friday
Wow, can you believe Holy Week is here already? Lent has flown right on by and we now find ourselves in the midst of the holiest week in the Christian calendar. Take this time to reflect on this day within holy week as you read through a devotion I wrote during holy week a few years ago. Click here to begin today’s deovtion.
Click here to view today’s devotion.
What on earth can we do now? Just last week things looked so promising. Jesus had done amazing things. He had healed the sick and gave the blind their sight back. He cast out demons and turned water into wine. He fed thousands of people with only a little bit of food and even walked on water.
Even beyond that, Jesus raised a couple of people to life after they had passed! Who can stop such a person? What on earth could possibly get in the way of such power? And yet, Jesus never claimed to have power. He was always giving credit to God, whom he referred to as Abba…father. He always…
Oh…what difference does it make? He’s dead now. What looked like hope for Israel, became another crushing blow from the Romans. I feel cold and empty. I feel lost with nowhere to turn. Where is God in this dark hour? Has God abandoned us? I was so sure I was called to be a disciple of Jesus…I was so sure that God wanted me to follow in his footsteps; however, now it seems utterly useless. The light in my life has been snuffed and my purpose has been snatched from me.
On this day, two thousand years ago, Jesus’ cold, dead body lay in a tomb that was carved out of stone. Outside of the tomb hid is disciples, who were uncertain as to what their next move should be. In fact, the room within which they hid became a dark tomb for them. They were paralyzed by the event of Good Friday. Though they were physically living, the passion that was once burning strongly within them was snuffed out.
As Christians, like the disciples, we too start full of passion and zeal. But somewhere along the way, we find ourselves drained, lost and alone. What is it in your life that has become a tomb? What is it that keeps you from living passionately for Jesus? What fears keep you in hiding…tucked away from the purpose Christ has given you?
On this Holy Saturday, take time to reflect on the tombs in your life. Take time to evaluate all of the things that keep you hidden away from your true self in Jesus Christ. Know that Christ is not dead in your life…in fact, Christ has never been more alive. Know that in Christ there is resurrection and that even the darkest of tombs cannot prevent the light of Christ’s resurrection from bursting forth in all of its radiancy. Know that on Easter, Jesus has you in mind. Are you ready to rise from your tomb(s)?
Lord, in this season of darkness, prepare me to see the light. Amen.
Read Matthew 2:13-23; John 21:1-19
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
A father, a mother and their young three-year old boy are making a long and dangerous trip home. They had spent the past few years in hiding and decided that it was finally safe to return home. There wasn’t much certainty of what would be awaiting them upon their return home; however, they knew that they could not stay away forever.
As they finally reach their homeland, they are entering a hell that they cannot even begin to anticipate. Their young son looks up, wide-eyed and frightened, left speechless by what his innocent eyes were witnessing. The mother looks up and gasps, calling her husband to look up. Above them is a forest of crosses, erect and grotesque. To each of the crosses are lifeless corpses, blackened with the decay of death. The bodies are rotting and are torn open from the pecking beaks of birds and the gnashing teeth of jackals and other scavengers that have made a feast of the flesh.
I am guessing that many of you are probably pretty disturbed by the image that has just been painted in two short paragraphs. If so, just imagine what the how scarred the little boy must’ve been to look up and see the sight of those bodies nailed to a forest of crosses. Hundreds of them set in their places to send a message of fear to anyone who dare resist the law of the land. This little boy, whose name is Yeshua in his native language of Aramaic and whose known by the Greek translation of that name (Jesus), would never forget the images of the crosses that foreshadow the way he is ultimately going to die.
This is the scene of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus returning home from Egypt in the History Channel miniseries, “The Bible.” And there can be no doubt that Jesus’ life in ancient, 1st Century, Palestine, would have been riddled with such horrific images. Jesus grew up in a world where the word “peace” equated to a cruel, merciless, and torturous death. In Jesus’ world, there were was no democracy, there were no civil “rights”, and there was no middle class. There were only the haves and the have-nots.
When we hear Jesus telling his disciples that if they wish to be his disciples they need to deny themselves and pick up their crosses, let us not forget the image above of the forest of crosses filled with the rotting, decaying stench of corpses. Jesus wasn’t talking about putting on a silver or gold necklace when he said “pick up your cross”; rather, he was talking about the Roman means of capital punishment.
As we move closer to Holy Week, and ultimately to Good Friday (the darkest day in the Christian calendar) let us reflect, not only on the sacrifice that Jesus made, but on the sacrifice Christ is calling us to make. If we are going to be Christ’s followers, if we really believe in Jesus’ message, then we will be willing to lose it all…no matter how bad it hurts…for the sake of Christ and his Good News.
While, I cannot tell you what your cross is, or how you are to bear it, remember that the only way to get to Good Friday is to pick up your cross and follow Jesus. The only way to get to Easter, to get to your own resurrection, is to die to all that you believe you are and to embrace who God proclaims you are. The only way to truly live, is to die to whatever is holding you back from giving your all to God. For most of us, this “dying is metaphorical”, but that doesn’t make it any less real. We are called to die to ourselves, and be resurrected in Christ Jesus so that we may bring God’s hope, healing and wholeness to those who are in desperate need of the life that God has to offer.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
To deny yourself does not equal self-neglect; rather, it equals the recognition that you are not “YOUR” own.
Lord, I surrender myself to your will. Use me in a way that will bring about your Kingdom here on earth. Amen.