The following is the latest in a series of daily meditations amid the pandemic. For today’s musical pairing, as we enter Good Friday, consider this unhurried version of the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem. All the songs for this series have been gathered into a Spotify playlist.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Meditation 16. 1,536,979 confirmed cases, 93,425 deaths globally.
There are four passages in Isaiah often called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The longest and most renowned is Isaiah 52:13–53:12. Jews read these passages and hear the story of Israel itself, as God redeemed the sufferings of his chosen people to bring blessing to the world. Christians, of course, hear the story of Jesus and his suffering on behalf of humankind.
Both can be true. As Holy Week makes excruciatingly clear, Jesus was “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” He was “pierced for our transgressions,” “led like a lamb to the slaughter,” and “cut off from the land of the living,” an “offering for sin.” “After he has suffered,” says verse 11, “he will see the light of life” and “will justify many.”
As we discussed in a recent meditation, Jesus seeks not only admirers but imitators. Time and again he defines following him as dying to ourselves and taking up our cross. Even as he is a Suffering Servant, he calls his church to be a fellowship of suffering servants.
In the words of Henri Nouwen, we are all called to be wounded healers. “The great illusion of leadership,” he writes in The Wounded Healer, “is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” Or, better, “The beginning and the end of all Christian leadership is to give your life for others.”
The Cross is our key to the kingdom. It shows us all the truths we would rather forget. That the kingdom of God is not about power and triumph, because all the might of the world cannot heal the hearts of men. That the kingdom of God is about powerlessness, reaching our own horizon, surrendering, willing our own downfall, dying to ourselves, and letting Christ bring his life forth within us. That it’s about becoming a suffering servant like him, joining him in the work of making all things new, and bringing healing into the broken places.
We yearn for authority, but Christ was only crowned when he wore the crown of thorns. We yearn for influence, but Christ’s only platform was the cross. We yearn for success, but Christ’s victory was in utter surrender and desolation.
On this Good Friday, in this season of affliction, let us remember. The cross is an object for contemplation, but also an invitation: Go and do likewise.
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