Thursday, April 2, 2015
Good Friday: A Man of Sorrows, acquainted with Grief
...a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
...a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
...a man of pains, well acquainted with illness.
...a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief.
...a man who suffered, who knew pain first hand.
Jesus has many names and many titles. I have a list here which takes 6 pages to print out, but I suggest the most important is the Man of Sorrows. This day is the centre of our faith. You will all know that when you have most needed Christ, you don't turn to Bethlehem, you turn to Calvary; in our darkest hour, we prefer Gethsemane to Nazareth. When we are in pain and suffering, we don't turn to the fact that He will come again in glory as King, No, we turn to the fact that He came as a man who knew sorrow and was grief stricken: A Man of Sorrows, acquainted with Grief, that's someone we can identify with, can't we?
500 years before Christ, Isaiah wrote of the suffering servant. Exactly who he was writing about, scholars remain uncertain. His first audience might have thought that he was writing about Israel, the suffering servant of the Lord, as he poetically describes the great suffering the nation went through before and during the Exile to Babylon. But it seems a bit more personal than a nation, and so with years, Jewish scholars began to see these verses as prophetically describing the Messiah who was to come. Certainly the early Church when it remembered Christ and read Isaiah, came to realise that Jesus was the suffering servant fulfilled.
This text lends itself to a neat, three point sermon. He was a MAN, He was a MAN OF SORROWS and He was ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF.
He was a man: 2000 years after Christ was born and 1700 years after the creeds of the church were first developed, we know that Jesus was God in the flesh and our creeds find different ways of saying that He was fully divine and fully human. My experience is that we tend to focus more on His divinity than His humanity and this causes us to look at His life and say things like, "Well, He could only do that because He was God. I can't be expected to do the things He did and live the way He did because I am only human. Now, I've taught this often, you and I, when we are born-again, or saved, or become Christian ... we are baptised in the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus the human was, and from that moment, we are no longer "just human", we are super (which means above) human ... we are born from above, we are born of the Spirit, and no one who is born of the Spirit, is "just human". No, we then have the power, the Holy Spirit of God, that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, in us, and with that power, we become fully human, just as Jesus was fully human.
He was a man: He was born from Mary, a woman. His humanity only differed from ours in that He had no sin, but it differed in no other respect. He was born of a woman, was nursed like any other child, grew in stature, knew hunger, thirst, tiredness, happiness and sadness. He could be touched, He could bleed. He was no ghost, He was flesh and blood like you and me. He died, like all humans do. He was a man.
He was a man of sorrows: Not a sorrowful man who would have lightened up if He'd had antidepressants, no, He was a man of sorrows. Sorrows were an element of His very being. We might well call Him, “A Man of Holiness,” for there was no fault in Him; or “A Man of labors,” for He did His Father’s business earnestly; or, “A Man of eloquence,” for never spoke a man like this Man! We might call Him “A Man of Love,” for never was there greater love than glowed in His heart! But, because of sin, He was a Man of sorrows. You see, our Savior had a peculiar relationship to sin. During His life, He was not only sorrowful at the sight of it, as He saw it all around Him, He was saddened by seeing its effects on others, just as you and I are saddened, sorrowful, when we see the affects of sinful life choices on those we love. But, even worse, sin was actually laid upon Him, and He was numbered with sinners, and therefore He was called to bear, in the words of Isaiah, the terrible blows of Divine Justice, and suffered unknown, immeasurable agonies!
He was a man of sorrows: He knew the sorrow that comes from a lonely life. Even when He was with His followers, He was lonely. Last night we saw that when He asked them: "Could you not watch with me one hour?" ... they couldn't, but this really described their whole life with Him, He knew throughout His ministry, that they really weren't getting it. There were the occasional glimmers, but He knew they weren't getting it. They want seats next to Him when He comes in His Kingdom, they want to pour down judgement on towns that have rejected Him, they want to resort to violence when the soldiers come to take Him away ... they just didn't get it ... many in the church today, just don't get what it means to be Kingdom people. He was a man of sorrows.
Acquainted with grief: With grief He had an intimate acquaintance! He did not know merely what it was in others, but it came home to Him. We have read of grief. We have sympathized with grief; we have sometimes felt grief—but the Lord felt it more intensely than other people in His innermost soul. We see on many occasions that His heart went out to folk, He grieved for them, when they were hungry, or sick, or persecuted, or lonely, or lost, or without a shepherd, or dying or dead ... He grieved. He didn't just feel sorry for them leading to a "Ag shame!" He grieved. It was a continuous acquaintance with grief and it was a voluntary acquaintance with grief. He need never have known grief at all but He chose to by entering into our grief. His heart broke for others … does ours?
So, He was a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He was human, so He knows exactly what it means to be human, like you and I. He knows sorrow, just like you and I. He knows grief, like you and I ... only He knows all these infinitely more than we ever will. He can fully identify with us and He chose to fully identify with us.
You and I can fully identify with Him, but we have to choose to fully identify with Him. That is a daily choice. Jesus said : Take up your cross daily. Brothers and Sisters, what are you doing for Jesus? I plead with you by the nail-prints of His hands, work for Him! I plead with you by His wounded feet—run to His help! I plead with you by the scar on His side—give Him your heart! I plead with you by that sacred head once pierced with thorns—give Him your thoughts! I plead with you by the shoulders which took the lashes of the whip—bend your whole strength to His service! I plead with you to give yourself to Him, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.