Jesus as the Model for our Lamentations
“You are my rock and my fortress”
Today’s readings: Is 52:13-53:12; Ps 31:2-25; Heb 4:14-5:9; Jn 18:1-19:42
It is Good Friday.
Today we celebrate the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 18:1-19:42). Jesus’ death and resurrection are what have won for us our salvation. They are at the very core of our covenant with God as Christians. They also point us to the spirituality we live and the gospel we proclaim. It is the spirituality and gospel of the cross. It is the spirituality of Lamentations, where in our sorrow is already the seed of hope and joy.
A spirituality of the cross is not easy. In fact, it is very difficult to live. This is one reason why we need to be always focused on Jesus. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15). Jesus has gone through it all. He has suffered terribly. In the light of his passion and death, our own sufferings are very small. In addition, Jesus understands our lamentations. He sympathizes with our weaknesses and failures. “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Heb 4:16). God’s grace is abundant. His mercies are not exhausted. His help is always available.
Jesus is our model in relating to the Father in our lamentations. “In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” (Heb 5:7). Jesus as fully human agonized during his passion, and looked to God for help and deliverance. And he was heard. And he learned the lessons of Lamentations. “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb 5:8). Our deliverance and restoration lie in our obedience to God. And because of Jesus’ reverence and obedience, “when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb 5:9). When we in turn obey Jesus, then we will experience restoration and enjoy eternal salvation.
What suffering did Jesus have to endure? Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the fourth and last of the “Servant of the Lord” oracles. It is prophecy perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is an extraordinary description of the suffering Servant who atones for the collective guilt of his people and saves them from the just punishment of God.
Over and over, Isaiah speaks about how Jesus suffered for our sins.
· “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured” (Is 53:4a).
· “But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins” (Is 53:5a).
· “Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Is 53:5b)
· “But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Is 53:6b)
· “Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, ….. he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people” (Is 53:8).
· “But the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. ….. he gives his life as an offering for sin” (Is 53:10).
· “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” (Is 53:11b)
· “And he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.” (Is 53:12c)
Extraordinary! Inscrutable! God Himself has suffered and died for my sins! How can I not offer Him my life in return? How can I hold anything back from Him? My only vocation in life should be to ensure that God’s “servant shall prosper, (that) he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” (Is 52:13). Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless” (Is 52:15a). I can only commit my whole life to proclaiming His glory among the nations, so that “those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it” (Is 52:15b).
Jesus himself was in lamentations, but this gave us hope and joy.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, and what he continues to want to do for us, what now is he to us? Who is he? Jesus is:
· Our refuge, in whom we can never be put to shame (Ps 31:2).
· Our rock of refuge and our stronghold, through whom we are saved (Ps 31:3).
· Our rock and our fortress, who leads and guides us (Ps 31:4).
· Our refuge, who frees us from the snare (Ps 31:5).
· Our faithful God, who redeems us (Ps 31:6b).
As Jesus is all that, the only reasonable response we can have to him is:
· To place the totality of our being, our very well-being, into his hands (Ps 31:6a).
· To trust in him (Ps 31:7b,15).
· To rejoice and be glad in his love (Ps 31:8a).
Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge who Jesus is and what he does for us. Let us praise him and proclaim him to the whole world.
· “You are my rock and my fortress” (Ps 31:4a).
· “You are my refuge” (Ps 31:5b).
· You are “Lord, faithful God” (Ps 31:6b).
· “You are my God.” (Ps 31:15)
· “How great is your goodness, Lord” (Ps 31:20).
· “Blessed be the Lord, who has shown me wondrous love” (Ps 31:22).
Jesus suffered and went to the cross. We are to follow in his steps. We too are to take up our cross. But even as our crosses in life bring us to lamentations, we know where we truly are going. Jesus has gone before us. Jesus has shown us the way. Jesus knows what our pains, fears and tears are all about.
We know the extent of God’s love for us. The Father’s love took human form in Jesus. And Jesus shed his precious blood to seal our covenant. And even now, Jesus walks with us, and bears our yoke with us. We therefore can face life—with all its ups and downs, with all its pains and joys—with confidence. In God we trust. Jesus brings us victory, hope and joy.
Action: Prayerfully read about the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consider how he suffered and died for you. Thank him and praise him.
Prayer: How totally profound and inscrutable is what you have done for me, Lord. You took on human flesh and suffered and died for me. You took on the penalty for my sins. You have loved me with an eternal love. But here I am, continuing to live a life not totally surrendered to you. Forgive me, Lord. Give me eyes to see, a mind to understand, a heart to truly love, so that I can properly respond to your love. Help me to be thankful for the crosses that come my way, for my personal lamentations, which draw me closer to you, and which allow me to share, even in a very small way, in your suffering. You are my rock and my refuge, and I fully trust in you. Walk with me always, and fill me with peace, hope and joy. Amen.
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)