Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Man Of Sorrows

Introduction

            Have you ever ordered something based on a detailed, written description or even a picture and when it showed up it wasn’t exactly what you had hoped for? I’m an avid reader and it happens to me occasionally—I’ll order a book based on a review of its content only to find out that it’s not ultimately what I expected. Maybe that’s happened to you with movies—you see a trailer that excites and motivates you to see the movie only to realize that the trailer was the only good part of the movie. I think Easter can be like that sometimes. We only want Easter to be about the victory represented by an empty tomb but it’s really about so much more than that. Easter is just a few days away and for Christians it represents the pinnacle of our faith. Easter validates Jesus as the one through whom and by whom we receive forgiveness for our sins. The primary focus of Easter is often the empty tomb because it represents the image of Jesus alive and well; the image we expect; the image we’re most comfortable with—just give us the empty tomb please and we’ll be happy. But that’s not what we get is it? Or at least the empty tomb is not the only image that is part of the Easter celebration. Most Christians love Easter Sunday but aren’t particularly fond of dwelling on the road that led Jesus to Easter Sunday. However, the salvation we enjoy as Christians loses some of its value if we’re unwilling to keep the cost of that salvation in view. Our salvation is not just about the empty tomb of Easter Sunday. Our salvation is also about all the steps along the way to the empty tomb.

            One of the reasons so many of the Jews, especially the religious leaders, during the time of Jesus had a hard time believing in Jesus as the Messiah was because He didn’t fit their definition of the Messiah. They were convinced the Messiah would be a king and military conqueror that would lead Israel to defeat her enemies and return her to national prominence. The prophet Isaiah, writing over a period of approximately 50 years during the 700’s BC, described the Messiah as a King (i.e. Isa 9:1-7) and Conqueror (i.e. Isa 63:1-6). This was the image the Jews had of the Messiah they were looking forward to. While all those images of Jesus are completely true and accurate, Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy is descriptive not necessarily chronological. This is important when we remember that Isaiah described the Messiah in another way as well—as a servant; specifically as a suffering servant; a Man Of Sorrows. This is the Messiah that came to the Jews in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the Messiah the Jews didn’t seem to want. Yet this is the Messiah that Isaiah prophesied about. This is the Messiah we recognize and celebrate as Christians. We recognize Jesus as King over all of creation even though he doesn’t occupy an earthly throne. We recognize Jesus as Conqueror because he defeated humanity’s greatest enemy—death. Nevertheless, the cross is never far from our view of Jesus. However, for the Jews, the Messiah and the cross didn’t belong together. A Messiah as King and Conqueror—absolutely! A Messiah as a suffering servant dying on a cross—no way! But this is the picture of the Messiah that Isaiah paints for us.

Subject Text

Isaiah 53
            1Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Context

            More than 700 years before the time of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah painted a picture of the coming Messiah that the people could look for. However, when He came, they refused to believe it was Him. They wanted the King and Conqueror Messiah so desperately that they refused to see the Man Of Sorrows Messiah in their midst. However, the Servant needed to come first before He could be properly understood as King and Conqueror. We too get lost sometimes in our favorite image of Jesus as Savior, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God or Immanuel and we try not to focus on the fact that Jesus was also the Man Of Sorrows. When we remember this part of Jesus then we can truly celebrate the depth of meaning represented by the empty tomb.

Remembering The Road To The Resurrection

            For a number of years when my girls and I did missions work in Mexico, we would be there over the Easter weekend. One time when we had finished our work for the day and were returning to camp, we encountered an elaborate procession along the road with crowds of people hollering and screaming and what seemed like soldiers mounted on horses at the front of the procession directing the crowd. As we got closer, we could see a man at the front of the procession dressed in a burlap robe dragging a cross over his shoulder. We were told that the locals were celebrating an annual Easter ritual of remembering Jesus’ final hours and the road to the cross. I had never seen anything like that before. It was mesmerizing to watch and moving to witness. In church practice it is formally known as the Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross. In Latin it is called the Via Crucis or Via Dolorosa. It is also referred to as The Way of Sorrows, or as The Way. Remembering the Stations or Way of the Cross may have begun as early as the 5th century AD when a few monasteries wanted to reproduce the holy places along Christ’s route to where He was crucified. The various stages (Stations) of Jesus’ trek were depicted in artistic renderings or sculptures. These images were placed around the church as a kind of remembrance. St. Francis of Assisi began the tradition of moving from Station to Station to commemorate the Passion of Christ. It is a rich tradition that has sadly been rejected by the Evangelical church generally. However, while some traditions should rightly be rejected, embracing this tradition as a way to remind us of the cost of our salvation can be properly used to add texture and greater meaning to our life of faith. During this Holy Week or Passion Week, I want to reproduce the Stations of the Cross here for you to reflect on. This season, as you move from Station to Station, try not to see the images as a spectator or innocent bystander but as a participant in the events. Try and find yourself in the people along the way. Are you the betrayer? Are you the religious leader? Are you one of those screaming for Jesus to be crucified? Are you hiding in the shadows afraid that someone might notice that you were one of His followers? Are you the one who helps Jesus carry His cross? Are you the centurion carrying the hammer and nails? Are you throwing dice for Jesus’ garments? Are you the thief on the cross next to Jesus? Are you the one who pierces Jesus’ side to make sure He’s dead? Are you the one crying at the foot of the cross because you think your only hope is now dead? Are you the one placing Jesus’ dead body in the tomb? Are you the one who finds the empty tomb? The original version of the Stations of the Cross includes a number of Stations based on church tradition. Although none of the Stations based on tradition cast any aspersions on the written Word or in any way affect any biblical doctrines, I would like to use the Protestant version that is supported by Scripture only.

Station One
Jesus prays alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.


Luke 22:39-46
39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Station Two
Jesus is arrested.


John 18:2-11
2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) 11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Station Three
Jesus questioned by the Sanhedrin.


Matthew 26:57-68
57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. 59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’62Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.64“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”

Station Four
Pilate tries Jesus.


Luke 23:13-25
13Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 18With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder. 20Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 22For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” 23But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Station Five
Pilate condemns Jesus to die.


Mark 15:15
15Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Station Six
Jesus wears the Crown of Thorns.


Matthew 27:27-30
27Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

Station Seven
Jesus carries his Cross.


Mark 15:20
20And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Station Eight
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his Cross.


Matthew 27:32
32As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

 Station Nine
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.


Luke 23:27-31
27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ 31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Station Ten
Jesus is nailed to the Cross.


Mark 15:22-26
22They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. 25It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Station Eleven
Crucified criminals speak to Jesus.


Luke 23:39-43
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Station Twelve
Jesus cares for his mother.


John 19:26-27
26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Station Thirteen
Jesus dies on the Cross.


Matthew 27:45-50
45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”--which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Station Fourteen
Jesus is laid in the tomb.


Mark 15:46
46So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

Resurrection Day
The empty tomb.


John 20:1-9
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Conclusion


            No matter how many times I reflect on the images and the associated Scripture verses, I am always moved by the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice and the sheer brutality of the beating and crucifixion. The images are jarring I know. Especially when we think of Easter only in images of beautiful, sunny, spring days, girls dressed in pretty dresses, churches filled with the sound of celebratory music, Easter baskets, fluffy bunnies, colored eggs, chocolate, banquet tables stacked with food, and laughter and celebration with family and friends. These are the images we want; the images that make us feel good. We love the image of the empty tomb because it represents the Jesus we want—King and Conqueror. However, there were no short-cuts to the empty tomb for Jesus. First He had to travel the humiliating, painful and bloody road that would lead to His death. Before Jesus can take His rightful place in our lives and hearts as King and Conqueror, we must face and accept the fact that He came to us, first, as the Man Of Sorrows.