Today is Good Friday and our attention is focused on Jesus’ death on the cross. One of the most striking aspects of Luke’s passion narrative is the way Jesus prays for His tormentors on the cross. In Luke 24, Luke records these words, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” (Luke 24:34 ESV). If I were being unjustly executed, my natural response would not be to pray the Lord would forgive my executioners. Instead, I would likely be praying for deliverance or justice or for judgement to be poured out on those taking my life. But Jesus does no such thing. Instead, He intercedes for His enemies, asking the Father to forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.
On some level, you and I have each experienced the consequences for our own sins. Think back to a time in childhood when you disobeyed. Did you have some type of punishment for your mischief?
This middle day of Holy Week brings us to the middle stanza in the Suffering Servant poem. As we are halfway between Palm Sunday and Easter, so too in this stanza we find ourselves between two sets of pronouns. The third person singular “He” and the first-person plural “we”. Him, the suffering servant alone; us, all of us, together in our sin.
Have you noticed that most artistic renderings of Jesus portray Him as physically fit with straight teeth? As a Middle Easterner, Jesus likely had a dark complexion and dark hair, but Isaiah’s prophecy warns against depicting Jesus as a man who was particularly attractive. According to Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant wasn’t handsome, wealthy, or majestic. The prophets declared God would send a deliverer for His people, and the Jews had been waiting in expectation for God to intervene in their situation.
Have you ever heard someone tell you to “look up”? That word of instruction is somewhat unique in that it can come our way either as a warning or as an encouragement. Our attention is either some place it doesn’t need to be, or we can’t see our way forward because of how something in our past has us down. Both situations merit a change in us, which a look upward in the right direction can make happen for the better.