Good Friday Wisdom for the Win
Behold, my servant shall act wisely;[a]
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
This is something to help you get deeply into the these Scripture readings, given that these are some of the greatest Messianic prophecies given to God’s people…
First, let me tell you a story… I’ll keep this very brief….
Adam and Eve.
Let me highlight that last one, a promise made to our first parents, by God, although spoken to Satan:
“…I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
This–as the church has long recognized–is the true heartbeat of the book of Genesis, and the whole Bible. The Promise of the Messiah.
In a sense, “It is finished!” Even then… in the Garden… in this Promise of what would undoubtedly come…
God will protect, save, rescue His people from the works of the Evil One… and from all those who follow in His train….
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22)
Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17 O Lord, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you…
…In the cover of your presence you hide [your people]
from the plots of men;
You see, the Lord promises to be there for His people… to change this groaning world, under the curse.
Things will not last as they are–even if we personally haven’t thought things to be so bad!–for things are not the way they are supposed to be….
The work of the devil, and all those who put their hand to his plow, will come to absolutely nothing!
“Oh my Little Israel, trust in me…”, He urges, like the Psalmist who writes….
…you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God (Psalm 22)
And so, in the midst of our struggles, we cry,
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me! (Psalm 31)
Still father, why not now? Thank you for the Promise that all will be made new, but when will you come?
Devout Jews are still asking this question today, a question that many, undoubtedly, were asking in the lead-up to Jesus of Nazareth.
“We’ve been working so hard [God]. Why not just take out your weapons, your legions of angels, and fight the battle now?”
Why not just unleash your fierce and just anger vs evil now… the works of that devil, and plow him under?
Is this not wisdom? To outsmart and outflank one’s enemies? To use lethal power to kill?
To enact one’s wrath vs one’s enemies?
In this way, will not the victory be won, and the victor be high and lifted up – and recognized, exalted among all?
For if you do that, then surely, I, like the Psalmist, will say…
3 …you are my rock and my fortress….
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God (Psalm 31)
But our vision is not His vision, is it?
God turns our world upside down….
God wins in His way and with His tools, not man’s….
You see, the Messiah… From the outside, he is presumably a rather average fellow….
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53)
And it just gets worse, says the Psalmist, with all this losing it seems…
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22)
And let’s be honest… to the world—sometimes even to us!—this just looks like despicable and contemptible weakness….
His own people got rid of Him!
What kind of leader is this? What kind of Messiah?!
We *deserve* better! They think.
Judas thinks, for as the Psalmist prophecies…
“they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life” (Psalm 31)
Indeed, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (another prophetic word from the Psalms)
Yet, not only this betrayer is His enemy. After all Isaiah writes…
as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
What’s that? Transgression of His people? My transgression? My rebellion…?
I, too, am His enemy?
The Messiah was of them and among them, but in a sense, not one of them, or perhaps better, they not one of Him…:
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53)
And yet, here… in the midst of all this seeming LOSING, God speaks of victory!
His Apostle turns the heads of the world with “foolish” words like this:
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross…”
We know that Psalm 22 begins
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…
And yet note that it continues….
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
… and finally it ends not in the cry of dereliction with which it began, but in exultation!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
Still, what strange victory is this? After all….
He was despised and rejected[d] by men,
and as one from whom men hide their faces[h]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53)
This strange victory is nothing other than the Wisdom from God….
As the Proverb says, a Gentle Word can Break a Bone….
And so, in Mel Gibson’s movie the Passion of the Christ we see Mary run to Jesus as He carries His cross, to help Him…
And as He looks at her, He simply says the words we hear from Him in the Book of Revelation:
“Behold… I make all things new….”
Won’t you bow with me?
But how? How does He do this?
He does it all through His passivity….
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53)
For it was “the will of the Lord to crush him”. And yet, note also His activity….
when his soul makes[j] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53)
God’s wrath, God’s punishment which we lawbreakers deserved—God’s righteous hatred for the sins of His enemies and sinners themselves—is absorbed into God Himself…
Into the Son of God…
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53)
It might look like defeat, but you see, the world is His, for He says….
“Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
…you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place… (Psalm 31)
You see? His Father is on His side. Resurrection is coming.
All will recognize Him. He is exalted. And He is glorified EVEN NOW, ESPECIALLY NOW when He is lifted up before the world…
For it is not during His great miracles but right after Judas betrays Him, setting everything in motion, that He says “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him…”
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[l]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[m]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors; (Isaiah 53)
God has, frankly, overcome this cursed world that is passing away in Him. Therefore even…
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand. (Isaiah 53)
I understood again last night, when at our church’s Maundy Thursday service we sang again these words:
Come not in terror, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.
That He abides with us is not in doubt!
Won’t you bow before Him with me?
Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31)
His victory is our victory. Victory comes to us in the midst of our seeming defeat. For…
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53)
“Of us all.” In spite of our evil, He takes care of it all. And freed from the power of their sin, death, and the devil, these straying sheep, His precious church, rejoice.
For we can know that we approach a day when we will never stray again, and never be poor and weak again…:
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it. (Psalm 22)
Be that as it may, all do not receive Him, grow in Him, pass on this glorious message to those yet unborn…
Instead… even among His own people we perform the sacrifices God does not desire…
Sacrifices to the false gods that we find more attractive and more compelling…
And even among His own people, just like in Jesus’ day, there are some who are totally false. Those for whom, the book of Hebrews (6:6) tells us, having once believed are crucifying Christ once again!
Psalm 22 again:
….a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots…
What is this? More foolishness again from God we might think!
The church’s abusers, embezzlers, perverts… Just like Paul wrote of God’s chosen people in Romans: “The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you!”
One might expect that He would exercise some real force and get these folks in line!
And yet, might we who cling to Him in true faith, even weakly, expect a “cross-like act” once again?
Should we be prepared for Him to surprise us, whose vision is so limited, with His strength and glory shown through human weakness?
And, perhaps, there can even be a final great harvest before the End of Time?… As unbelievers from far and wide are drawn to Him?
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you (Psalm 22)
One thing I do know… He expects us, contrary to the world, to operate in the way of humility, simplicity, even weakness.
Even suffering. Like Him.
And rest assured, He will come again, in power none can mistake for weakness. As judge… to judge the living and the dead.
For all the world that does not recognize Him as the Lord’s prophesied Messiah–outside the church or within it–is still under His wrath….
Not just you and me, but the world, will bow….
Some willingly to be sure, by grace through faith in him.
Others will be made to bow, as He enacts His wrath…. A wrath not quenched by His cross.
On that day, will many long for the Christ we hear of today? Like the proverb “a gentle word can break a bone”?
Or will they insist on, receive instead, this word?:
“My word is like a hammer, that can break the rock to pieces…”
Shattered indeed were many of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and others who stumbled and fell on God’s Cornerstone.
But it is not the case for those who are built on this Stone, this Rock which cannot be shattered.
For us, Christ has absorbed the coming wrath and storm, and makes all things new… including me, including you….
It is Finished, Paid in Full, indeed.
“Let us hold fast our confession… and with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
It is a Good Friday. A very Good Friday.