“See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him–so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals – so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate. Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:1)
We are told over and over in scripture that Jesus had the appearance of a common ordinary person. Both historically and pictorially the halos of Jesus and the disciples were “drawn in” after the fact. There is further evidence that Jesus may not a have been of fair skin. Furthermore, since Jesus was from God and divine, his appearance cannot be attached to any one culture or ethnicity. That is a good thing, beloved reader.
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He 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 we held him of no account.” (Verses 2 – 3)
When we are not judge favorably by our appearance or do not appeal to the norms of society, but have within us a nature that is like Christ – that is a good thing. Of course we can assume that Jesus in some way conformed to the idea of how a person would look. At least before the cross and crucifixion. We tend to equate good looks with a good person. That is not always the case. Neither though is everything that is ugly in our sight bad. The inner person is more important than the outer appearance. And that is a teaching from Jesus Christ. And it is a good teaching, beloved reader.
“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” (Verses 4 – 9)
If the forgoing is true and good, so must this be. As “good” as it is, it reflects the “bad” that the writer of Isaiah sees in those of his time. And dare I say it, the bad that we see around us. But Christ’s suffering and sacrifice has not been in vain. There is good in our world; either directly through faith beliefs or indirectly through a sense of compassion and accountability that is present in humanity – we find good.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. 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. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Verses 10 – 12)
The understanding of Jesus’ actions in the New Testament are based on what some of the prophets, such as Isaiah, said in the Old Testament. And that is based on what commentators of the Old Testament have gleaned from what happened in the New Testament. Neither Testament stands on its own, but find relevance in each other. Not exactly a scientific method, beloved reader. Is that good? Perhaps; faith has never claimed to be a logical matter. In fact Paul said that believe in Jesus the Christ and as the Son of God is foolishness according to “wisdom” and that is by Divine. So, if it is confusing, maybe that is good?!
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 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)
Is this David? The gospel writers have placed these words in Jesus’ mouth. And I think it is good. Confusing, but good. It however puts fear into our hearts, because if the Divine abandoned the Only Son of the Lord God – who is to say that we will not be abandoned? This may not be good.
“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; “Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver– let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” (Verses 3 – 8)
Yet, we know that Jesus the Messiah was not forsaken. In fact the Divine was with Jesus in that moment; the Divine was Jesus in that moment! This is good!
“Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.” (Verses 9 – 21)
It is reverse logic, beloved reader. And the intermingling of the Old and New Testament. The psalmist saw and felt that the Divine had saved him from all that he feared and dreaded. The Divine save Jesus from unending death and Jesus rose to new life. If the Divine gave Jesus a new life, surely the lesser feat of supporting us in the life is possible and feasible. And since Jesus died for our sake, surely we have been blessed with and given hope. This is very good news!
What should we do in response to this blessing of the Lord God?
“I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” (Verses 22 – 31)
I was caught, and caught up by the phrase “did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted”. At one point during his final journey to death, Jesus asked the Divine to forgive those who were crucifying him because they did not know what (or to whom) they were killing. Can they be counted amongst the afflicted? Is sin through ignorance an affliction? Does it matter to the Divine, if the person seeks the Face of and follows the Divine? If it does not matter, this is a good thing. And it is very good thing to tell all who will listen about this. With this exhortation, let us move on finally to the gospel passage – at least an abbreviated one.
“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” (John 18:1 – 3)
I suppose, beloved reader, you know some not good things are going to happen. Of course you do; you know the story. And you know too, why this not so good start ended up very good. What I propose to get a sense of the not good becoming good, however, is to follow along for a short time what is happening to Peter.
“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.” (Verses 10 – 12)
Why Peter? Because of all the disciples, Peter was the one who might have felt the full impact of the not “good”, but in time saw the good emerge.
“The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” (Verse 18)
When things are not going well, it is human instinct to try to distance yourself from the situation. Do you remember, beloved reader, that Jesus predicted Peter would distance himself from Jesus. Peter, of course, denied it vehemently.
“Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.” (Verses 25 – 27)
Right on schedule. While this was happening, again of course, Jesus was put on trial, whipped, humiliated, and finally condemned to death. As the prophet Isaiah predicted, without a protest or sound.
“Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.” (19: 16 – 18)
Peter, to his credit, did not run and hide away. Instead he follow the sad progression, and was there. For Peter, this was not good.
“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Verse 30)
At this point one who did not know how the story would turn out, might be tempted to leave this scene. After all, what more could be done? Only one thing; and those close to Jesus and with the ability & power to act, did the only good thing that was left to do.
“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (Verses 38 – 42)