Thursday, April 11th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for April 11th: Psalm 31:9-16; Isaiah 53:10-12; and Hebrews 2:1-9. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, there are solemn passages known collectively as the Suffering Servant passages. They speak of a righteous one who suffers on behalf of others. From the earliest days of Jesus' followers, believers have applied these texts to Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Suffering Servant passages helped them to see Jesus’ tortured death not as defeat, but as suffering endured for others. The cross was not only “He died;” it was “He died for us.” We often look at this from our own perspective, but there is also a hint of what those Suffering Servant passages may have meant for Jesus:
“Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”
The cross is Jesus’ final proclamation of the gospel. It is His unwavering commitment to the message of peace, forgiveness and love. He will not return hatred for hatred, violence for violence. He submits to the evil of others rather than take any part in it.
But there is the glimmer of hope that Jesus found some consolation in the promise that His testimony unto the point of death would make a difference. In the Suffering Servant passage, the righteous one bears our iniquities to “make many righteous.” As He suffered, hopefully, in “his anguish he shall see light.” Maybe the “many righteous” are the light that gave Christ hope in the time of His betrayal and desertion. Maybe the possibility of our faith today lessened Jesus’ burden on that first Good Friday.
Jesus gave the last of what He could on that horrid cross. It is a bit reassuring to think that maybe our faith helped Jesus in His last hours. I’d like to think so. As the author of Hebrews writes: “Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” We can give something back to Jesus in our faithfulness and I find that comforting as I have to look up at that cross, that hate-filled cross, every Lent where Jesus gave-up everything for us.
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