Holy Friday, Isaiah 53 and Lectio Divina

Happy “Holy Friday” to you! This week is an important time in the life of the Church regardless of our denominations or creeds, this week the Church unites its focus and purpose to the Person and Work of Christ. 

“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
1 Corinthians 15v3-4 

This year as with many “Holy Fridays” in the past, I am re-reading Isaiah 53 “The Suffering Servant” prophecy written some 700 yrs before Christ came. My approach to the Isaiah reading this year has varied slightly as I have introduced a practice I learned about recently called Lectio Divina Latin for divine reading. Lectio Divina is basically a prayerful Scripture reading practice that has been in use for over a thousand years. The practice is simply a way of ruminating on God’s Word and listening to what He has to say to us from Scripture. 

The Isaiah passage through the practice of Lectio Divina has impacted me in a particular way, especially around the subject of pain and suffering. Repeated throughout ch.53 are various adjectives describing the pain the servant endured, touching on the varied types of suffering that may be experienced over a lifetime… “despised, rejected, suffering, we held him in low esteem, punished, stricken, afflicted, pierced, crushed, oppressed etc.” These descriptors of pain are multi faceted in nature. The suffering is emotional, physical, relational and even spiritual. The prophets foretelling of what would happen to Christ reminds us of just how much was happening on the day that Jesus died, pain that extended well beyond mere physical torment. Jesus was betrayed by people, punished by the Father, unjustly judged by the system “he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth” and on top of all that was the physically torment. 

Yet despite all of the pain and suffering the passage is filled with hope because attached to the pain are the benefits that come as a bi-product… He took our pain, bore our suffering, was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, by His wounds we are healed. I typically struggle to find purpose and meaning in the painful things of life other than the old “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, I’ve just never cared to be stronger if the only purpose is the ability to withstand more pain but what we see in Jesus is something else, another purpose for suffering… the well being of others! 

The passage really doesn’t have anything to do with our pain but Christs pain and how Christ pain takes away our pain, our punishment, our sin, our maladies… How does Jesus take my pain? How can His suffering take away my misery? At some level I am still going to carry my own sorrow, feel my losses, deal with the consequences of my sinful choices… if I get cancer I will bear that pain, if my child dies I will grieve and suffer through that loss, if my sinful choices ruin me I will get to live with the repercussions but… Isaiah says the servant has suffered so you don’t have to, He took your pain and bore your suffering— How?  

When Jonathan Edwards one of Americas greatest Puritan preachers and theologians was just 18 years old he preached his first sermon, entitled, Christian Happiness. His main point was simply Christians should be happy and he gave 3 reasons: 

Point 1: Our bad things will turn out for good.

Point 2: Our good things can never be taken away from us.

Point 3: The best things are yet to come.

If Edwards is right and I believe he is, then at least in part this answers the question, How can Jesus take our pain and sorrow for us? His suffering has made it possible for good to come from evil, for the good things to remain forever, and the hope that the best is still ahead of us. 

Jesus has made it possible that by His suffering we can give our pain to Him and He will take it for us… 

He will be the shock absorber for all of life’s traumas.

He will carry most of the weight.

He will wrap us into Himself and insulate us in the midst of suffering we are not isolated from suffering. 

We will experience pain, but Jesus keeps us from being impacted by the full force of life’s storms. Isolated from suffering is to never get in the boat and set sail, insulated from suffering is on board the boat in the midst of the stormy sea and yet kept safe and at peace through it all because Jesus is in your boat and He won’t let you drown. 

On Holy Friday, I give my pain and sorrow to Jesus by praying “Jesus this is yours” and letting Him carry it and by confessing to others those areas of pain I am surrendering to Jesus. 

On Holy Friday, I receive the work Jesus did and I allow my heart to be light again.

On Holy Friday, I accept that I cannot bear the weight of the sin, pain and sorrow that Jesus came to take from me and I leave it with Him. 

On Holy Friday, I am free to be happy!

Good Friday to you Brothers and Sisters!