Good Friday 2017
Estill Federal Correctional Institution
“Carried our sorrows…Wounded for our transgressions…Healed by his bruises”
On this day, one cannot find a better outline for the passion narratives of Jesus’ death than this fourth Servant Song of Isaiah. One does wonder if Jesus himself had this servant figure in mind as he reflected upon his own ministry and what God was calling forth from him. And certainly, the early Church and the Church right up to the present, view Jesus the Christ as the appropriate figure to be described by this Servant Song, regardless of what the Servant’s original identity may have been.
The accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion are imbedded with descriptions of this servant. Listen: “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering…He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth…They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich.” The Gospel writers surely had the Servant Songs beside them as they composed their narratives, and why wouldn’t they? They had before them what was their Scriptures – those of the Jewish people which became our Scriptures also. After all, they were Jews writing about the extraordinary life, death and resurrection of another Jew – Jesus. What could have been more natural, or faithful, or inspired, than to use their own Scriptures to help them describe those awe-full, degrading and miraculous events of Good Friday and Easter? We are forever bound up in an inextricable link with our Jewish sisters and brothers, who themselves are celebrating Passover this week, even as we now celebrate the Christian Passover of Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
So it is that the Christian Church has appropriated this passage as a description of the life, ministry and work of Jesus of Nazareth whom the Church confesses as the suffering servant of God. The uniqueness of the passage is that the Servant himself carries or bears the “iniquity of us all” when “all we like sheep have gone astray.” He was “wounded for our transgressions…upon him was the punishment that made us whole.” Suffering becomes the means by which Jesus accomplished his work, and thereby was effective in the rescue, or salvation, of others.
There are three foci of this Isaiah passage that stand out if we apply them to Jesus as the Servant. Each one is intended to be life-changing for God’s people, you and me, and give us a reasonable hope for living on this troubled earth and in our sometimes troubled lives.
This is the Good News of Good Friday, why we call it Good. Today is the counter-narrative to the world’s tired old narrative that might makes right, and those who live by the sword will really live. Not so, says the Lord of Hosts; not so says God the Creator; not so says Jesus; and he says it not merely in his words, but in a deed. It is the event of the Cross. It is God’s yes to the world’s no. Our hope then is found in God’s yes. It is the Yes of the Cross.
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.