"Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied;
By His knowledge shall the righteous One, my Servant,
and make many to be accounted righteous,
and He shall bear their iniquities."
As we enter the season of Lent, many people choose to fast from something as a way to express love and gratitude to a Savior who suffered to love and reconcile us to God. I know I'm a little more comfortable reading verses like Isaiah 9:6 that talk about the birth of Jesus and that tell us His name is "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace!" Those are powerful names that stir up feelings of safety and security and stir a desire to trust God whose names give us a picture of what He is like. But the truth is Lent is about a different part of His story, a part that I both love I hate. I love the story because it allows us to reflect on His life during the days that lead up to the cross and that gives me glimpses into the way He relates to people. I like it because it is through His death on the cross that we have salvation. I hate this part of the story because it also reveals to my messy heart that I have a Savior that suffered terribly because He loved me and wanted to reconcile me to the Father. I hate it because it exposes how poorly I love in comparison to Him.
Isaiah 53 tells us that He was despised and rejected by men. He was Israel's long-in-coming Messiah and they rejected Him. He was wrongfully accused of many things because the miracles He performed pointed to the truth of who He is, the Words that He preached convicted spiritually dead religious leaders and freed people they had long oppressed, and the love He showed wasn't limited to just the lovely who fit the picture of religion. His love was for the unlovely, messy, wounded, needy, and sinful people like me. The gospels also tell us His own family thought He was crazy! He was "run" out of town. He was also accused of getting His miraculous power from Satan and eventually was betrayed and deserted by friends during His final hours.
The Scriptures tell us He was a man who was acquainted with grief. He wept at the death of a friend and He wept over Israel because she was like a bunch of sheep without a Shepherd. He served the crowds meals, cast out demons, healed broken bodies, gave sight to the blind and ears that hear to the deaf, restored life to a woman whose life-force was flowing out of her. He gave women used wrongfully back their dignity, allowing those deserving death and those deemed unfit for "worship" in the temple to come worship Him--One can't serve in such a messy and painful world without grieving.
Though He had enough power in His words, to create the universe, to calm a raging storm, to cast a legion of demons out of a man no one could control, and to call a man out of His grave, He also had restraint to be silent when He was arrested. He said not a Word so that He would be convicted, thus laying down His life for me. Looking at His restraint in light of the horror of His death, makes His silence all the more amazing. He could have spoken and those accusing Him would have fallen down dead. He could have spoken and softened their prideful hearts by exposing the ugliness within and the ungodly motives driving their actions. He could have called down the powers of Heaven, but instead, He remained silent. Silent through beatings that ripped skin from His back and left His back bleeding and raw. Silent though the crowds taunted Him. Silent as the nails were pounded into His flesh binding Him to the cross. Silent as the cross to which He was nailed was hung posing Him between Heaven and earth between two criminals--one mocking, the other trusting.
He even chose to remain on the cross as the sin of man was put on Him--not on the cross, on Him. The darkness grew as sin after sin was placed on Him and He faced the wrath of God in my place. As darkness grew, His anguish swelled until He could be silent no more. He cried out, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" He had been silent until He felt what I feel as a broken, sinful human being who wondered if I had been forsaken when I experienced deep pain. He was silent so He could lay down His life, but He broke the silence so I would know He understands the part of me that wanted to be protected, but wasn't--that part of me that felt forsaken, but wasn't.
His death was brutal because He faced God's wrath for sin. It serves as a reminder of the seriousness of sin--sin that draws us away from God, His pure love, and His goodness. His death was a brutal reminder that sin kills. It kills the human spirit, deceives the human mind, crushes the human emotions, and destroys families, churches, communities and countries.
His death was brutal because we need reminders of the depth God would go to woo us back to Him, of how far He would go to defeat the enemy of our souls, and what lengths He would go to communicate His love to our desperate hearts. It is not about warm fuzzy feelings we call love, it is about sacrifice, it is about confronting the false idols that don't satisfy our soul thirst or heart hunger, it is about doing the next right thing no matter how hard it is or how much it goes against what our prideful hearts want. It is about facing fearful things with courage, facing confusing circumstances with firm belief that those circumstances don't negate His love, care, and compassion, and laying down our demands, our sense of entitlement to embrace the truth that this life is not about me, it is about living life one sacrifice at a time.
His death was brutal so we would never forget that grace covers sin with a blood sacrifice, that goodness overcomes evil, and that love overcomes hatred. His death was brutal to remind us that love never comes easy, it is hard and always requires a laying down of self.
As I contemplate His death this Lent season, I can see in my mind each of my sins etched in His skin. I am so thankful I'm no longer shamed by that picture, but am overwhelmed with a love that would do that for me. Anne Voskamp shared in one of her posts on lent that she sat down and ate the soup of a meal she had committed to fasting for Lent. Upon realizing it, her thoughts weren't self-debasing thoughts as mine so often are. Instead, she whispered a prayer, "Do I love You so little?" When I read her words it hit me, that is Godly sorrow. She understands grace and she understands it is His goodness that leads to repentance not toxic shame we heap on our selves. I pray that by contemplating the sacrifice of my traumatized Savior I will allow His great love to be shed abroad in my heart and have the courage to love as sacrificially as He loves.