Summary: A heartfelt look at the suffering servant.
God at the Mercy of Sinful Humankind
Isaiah 50:4-9 (Main Text)
Philippians 2:5-11(Read entire text pg. 5)
Each text I will use today relates to the suffering of Christ -- from the first inklings of the suffering in the prophet Isaiah, to the long passion narrative in Mark, to the theological reflection of Paul in Philippians. Regardless of the passing of time or the continuing development of our theological skills, no preacher or theologian has put to rest Paul's observation in First Corinthians,
"...the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God." [1 Cor. 1:18]
Our Western, rational way of thinking still has a hard time with the notion of a suffering Messiah. It remains a logical puzzle as to just how an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God would allow the Christ (Yoshua Maschiac) to be executed on behalf of willful, sinful human beings. It is absolutely, totally mind boggling! The thought is too much to comprehend! The almighty, all-powerful, holy God of this universe surrenders Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate into the hands of sinful people who plot his arrest, engineer a guilty verdict and mock his agonizing death. If ever, in the history of the world, there was a time when a "wrongful death" suit had merit -- this was it!
And yet... when the soul rending words of Jesus –
"My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!" –
Pierce a darkened Jerusalem sky... the heavens are silent…
Every parent who has ever lost a child... Every tribe or nation that has ever been destroyed and plundered by a vicious aggressor... Every innocent soul that has ever been falsely convicted and imprisoned can understand Jesus' cry from the cross. All the pages of every book that has been written with titles like, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," or "Where is God When it Hurts?" -- is summed up in the hopeless abandonment Jesus is experiencing.
Just think of it. The brightest light that ever shone, the kindest heart that ever lived, the greatest teacher who ever taught... is,
How can that be?
Here's the central thought behind the message for today. It is the world changing truth that can only be understood with the help of the Spirit of God. It is the truth that can changes our lives, our church, our community and our world -- IF... we would embrace it in the depth of our souls:
God surrenders Jesus Christ to the mercy of sinful mankind…so that sinful mankind might be placed
into the mercy of God!
This essential truth is about ultimate justice. How can everything that is wrong be made right? Who has the power to overturn every wrongful conviction, every unjust act and restore the broken lives of all that have been crushed by oppression? It is precisely in the face of the worst possible injustice that the hope for eventual and decisive justice comes. Even in the face of a dark, silent Jerusalem sky, the words of hope come from centuries earlier when the prophet captured the spirit of the One who cried out from the cross when Isaiah says:
"... He who vindicates me is near...
it is the Lord God who helps me..."
The Psalmist expressed it this way:
"For I hear the whispering of many -- terror all around!
As they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you O Lord, I say, 'You are my God.' "
It is as though Jesus went beyond hope, to the darkness of despair to experience for us what it means to feel abandoned by God. His experience is an affirmation an encouragement that this sense of hopelessness is not a failure of trust in God, but a point at which every human support is gone, and we are forced to the affirmation,
"Our help is in the Name of the Lord." [Ps. 124:8]
To put it crudely, Jesus hits the wall of human effort and achievement and pushes through…to a place where only God's mercy, God's justice and God's promises will bring about hope. It is in the deepest injustice that we learn to depend upon God's justice. It is in the utter failure of human mercy that God’s mercy comes through with healing. And it is in the passion of Christ that we discover the promise of final vindication, mercy and grace.
In the suffering of Jesus Christ, there is the most profound statement of God's love and mercy in the word of God. Ask yourself just how it is that the Almighty God of this universe chose to enter our world. Christ does not come as a conquering warrior king, but in the form of a vulnerable, tiny baby. And now -- near the end of the story of God's intervention into human history we are faced with this amazing picture -- a forsaken, humble servant who is at the mercy of sinful human hands.