Good Friday. A day that we set aside to honor, mourn, and contemplate the death of Christ. The death that makes it possible for us to live. The Son of God, in humble obedience to the Father, choosing to suffer…choosing to die a horrific and shocking death…choosing to throw Himself in front of sin…for you and for me. This is a story dripping with the worst of humanity and the best of the Godhead.
Yesterday I found myself watching a movie called “Anne Frank”. Anne was one of many, many victims of the Holocaust. I had avoided this story for many years simply because of the heart wrenching sadness that it brings. Anne was not famous…she was really nothing special. The only reason that we even know her name is because she chose to keep a fairly detailed journal during her family’s time in hiding from the Nazis. The story is particularly moving because of the sacrifice that the friends of Anne Frank and her family made in hiding them…knowing that it meant death if they were found out. It is also particularly frightening because Anne and her family were completely innocent of any crime and were simply born Jewish. They were captured right before the war ended and sent to concentration camps, where Anne and her sister died of disease before their release could be obtained.
As I rolled such injustice around in my head and my heart, I got stuck on a verse. Isaiah 53:10. Will you go with me for a moment into some really difficult Biblical territory? Let me start a few verses up so that you will feel the weight of verse 10.
But He was pierced because of our transgressions,<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”>
crushed because of our iniquities;<sup class="crossreference" value="(J)”>
punishment<sup class="crossreference" value="(K)”> for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.<sup class="crossreference" value="(L)”>
We all went astray like sheep;<sup class="crossreference" value="(M)”>
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished Him
for the iniquity<sup class="crossreference" value="(N)”> of us all.<sup class="crossreference" value="(O)”>
He was oppressed and afflicted,yet He did not open His mouth.Like a lamb led to the slaughterand like a sheep silent before her shearers,He did not open His mouth.<sup class="crossreference" value="(P)”>He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;and who considered His fate?For He was cut off from the land of the living;He was struck because of my people’s rebellion.They made His grave with the wickedand with a rich man at His death,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”>although He had done no violenceand had not spoken deceitfully.<sup class="crossreference" value="(R)”>
Yet the Lord was pleased<sup class="crossreference" value="(S)”> to crush Him severely.When You make Him a restitution offering,<sup class="crossreference" value="(U)”>He will see His seed, He will prolong His days,and by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished
“Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.” Let me say it one more time…”Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.” Can you stop and close your eyes and let it sink in for a moment? Jesus…Son of God…innocent and perfect…walking the earth in total obedience to God…living completely for others…healing…loving…giving all He had…yet the His Father was pleased to crush Him severely… to punish Him for our sins.
At fleeting glance…if you don’t know our God intimately, this is intolerable! Such injustice! It’s not only not fair, it is fairly sadistic. If you are acquainted with our Great God, however, you will look a little bit deeper. Let’s zoom out for a second…
God was pleased because He alone knew the plan. He alone saw the big picture. He saw that what was happening to Jesus…every stripe on his back…every nail in his flesh…every accusation and oppression…His hurt…His pain…EVERYTHING was working together for our good. What gave Him pleasure at the cross was that He was already standing at the empty grave! As His Son was being desecrated by the creation of His own Hands, He saw a reconciled relationship with you and with me. The cross was not the end… it was a new beginning!
The offense comes in with the application of this passage to our daily lives. If God was pleased as He watched the suffering of His Son because it accomplished His Will, then He is pleased when He watches our suffering too. When all is going according to the plan, He is pleased. I don’t mean to say that He does not walk, oh so closely to us through our sufferings. I am only saying that He sees the big picture. He sees the Glory this will bring Him on the other side…He sees how it will all work together for good and He is pleased. The same God who offered up His Son to the world for shame and contempt so that you and I could be in relationship with Him, is the same God who allows suffering to mold us and shape us…not only us, but those around us.
I could give so many examples of this, but we would be here for hours and God woke me up at 4am to write this, so I will keep it short. It is not easy for me to put any of this on paper. Every word has been weighty and difficult. I don’t want you to think this was easy for me to write to you…those of you that are suffering right now. Here I am with this amazing family and this great story and in many eyes living “happily ever after”…whatever that means :). I am here to tell you that I have suffered. I have suffered privately and silently, but I have suffered. Those closest to me would be my witnesses. Many, many, many nights and many, many, many days spent “innocently” suffering. And can I just tell you that the thought that God has been pleased with my suffering makes it just a little bit easier to take? Doesn’t that sound absolutely crazy? Our God is such a paradox. The thought that my suffering has, even in some little way, accomplished the plan of God makes it seem worth it. No, I don’t want to suffer ever again…and I don’t pray for suffering, but can I tell you that the most sacrificial prayers…those like “Conform me to Your Will” and “Make me more like Your Son” and “Use me for Your Glory” and “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done.” are all prayers that lead to some kind of suffering. Suffering, my sweet friends, is part of the plan. Suffering shows us our deep, unquenchable need for this amazing Savior.
I know this has been a hard one. It is still hard for me to flesh out…and hard for me to accept. There is so much more I could write, but let’s just think on this today. Let’s bring it before the throne as we contemplate the cross. Many of us have not counted this cost, and I think we need to hang out here for a while to make sure that we are really on board with this Christ following thing. Jesus said to His followers right before the cross…”Whoever does not eat My flesh and drink My blood has no part in Me.” In other words, if you can’t suffer with Me, you can’t rejoice in resurrection with Me either. Many of the people following Him went home after this. It wasn’t what they had signed up for. I LOVE this passage. Jesus turns to the rest of the disciples and says “You wanna go home too?” and Peter says “Where would we go, Lord? Only You have the Words of eternal life.”