Lenten Reader -- Day 13
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.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life until death, and he was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)
The human condition is desperate. It is for this reason that Jesus had to suffer.
Like foolish sheep wander off, we, too, turn our backs and walk away from God to our own detriment. All of us do it. This is why it was important for Jesus to bear the sin of “us all” on his shoulders.
But suffering was not the end of his story. Isaiah speaks in the future tense as well, beyond the excruciating torment of the cross, about a time when Jesus would “see the light of life” and satisfaction in seeing his reward: our justification.
Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy (like he is of so many others). It was Jesus’ clear purpose in coming to this earth that he would not be served, but do the serving himself and to give his life as a ransom for us - ransom, because we were held in captivity, wandering sheep penned up by an evil captor, but now freed by a gentle Savior.
Jesus did not suffer on the cross in spite of who he was, but rather precisely because of who he was. Our redemption was his mission. Service and sacrifice were (are) part of his nature, as they should become part of ours.
The example Jesus set of servanthood transcends any example man has ever seen or ever will see. This other-centeredness, as it was so clearly modeled by our Savior is now our foremost calling.
And he promises, this is how we will find true life for ourselves.
God of eternity, you see the beginning from the end and no one can attempt to counsel you. Your plan has always been good, though, because of our finite and fallen minds, we often fail to recognize it as such. You are incomprehensibly transcendent and yet startlingly immanent. As I learn to reverence you in holy love and awe, I also learn to view my circumstances and challenges in this life with courage, knowing that you have my destiny in your hands and nothing you purpose can fail. My confidence is in your promises, and though I know they will not be fully manifested until the King of glory returns, I know that my future is secure in you. I ask for a greater vision of your brilliance and a growing desire to share that vision with the people I encounter during this earthly pilgrimage toward my eternal home with you. I pray this in the name of the One who loved me and gave himself for me. Amen.