14 April 2017

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

β€œHe was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and held him of no account.” (v. 3)

Psalm: Psalm 22


Today is Good Friday, the day Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus. Condemned by the temple authorities and executed under Roman authority, Jesus died a slow and tortuous death in the hot sun in the middle of a jeering crowd.

From the cross, he called out words of the first verse of today's psalm (Matthew 27:46), Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The psalm continues: "Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest" (Psalm 22:1-2)

The temptation is to go too quickly to the promise of greatness and redemption, the wink that says that things will work out and not to worry. Not today. Today is about loss, chaos and anarchy. Has anyone built anything of value or worth? Today it is torn down. Has a city lived in tolerance and peace with diverse people? Today its populations flee and its public squares become a war zone.

The words of today's passage were written when the community of the Hebrew people was exiled from their homes and imprisoned in Babylon, their holy places and the religious tradition of centuries destroyed. They were written as a promise that God had not forgotten, and would send a servant to suffer and bring healing to the people. Today ends in darkness, but the story is not finished.

To Ponder

  • What do you imagine Jesus' disciples feeling and doing after his death?
  • Are Christians foolish to think healing can come from suffering? Why, or why not?
  • How healthy is it to make such a focus of Good Friday, and on the memory of such a violent death?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister, and superintendent of the Ealing Trinity Circuit in the London District. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.