The cross that carried our sorrows (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
By Rev. Kevin Cauley, Pastor
Darlington Presbyterian Church
The first stop on the road to Easter is the Cross on Good Friday. Sometimes we prefer to skip over the sadness of the Cross and go right to the joy of the Empty Tomb. But in these days of grief and sorrow, we may learn to appreciate more the crucified Jesus, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” who also carries our griefs and our sorrows. “I feel your pain” was a phrase said over and over by a friend who was doing rounds with me at Balboa Naval Hospital. We were young seminarians and Navy Chaplain candidates sent to get experience in a hospital setting. The first time I heard my friend I thought he had so much compassion for the patient. After the eighth time, I realized he didn’t really feel the pain of the patient and the patient knew it, too. He was trying to communicate empathy but neither of us really felt or understood the patient’s pain. I learned what the patient really needed was for us to listen and simply communicate God’s amazing love to the situation. With the COVID virus, together we have borne the sorrows and the grief of the pandemic. We are fearful together about the turmoil and confusion in our government on all political sides. We see together an increase of violence in our nation’s streets, as well as recently in the streets of our beautiful small town. We see our neighbors suffer, those who are in need, and the hurt and the pain of the stranger. The majority of us have been blessed with relatively happy and peaceful lives. But through these days, we wonder if we will ever know those days again. As we carry this cross together, we also wonder if we will know an Easter together? On the cross, Jesus entered the sorrow and the grief of the whole world. These have always been present in our fallen world. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah proclaimed a word of hope that a Suffering Servant, a Suffering Messiah would bear our hardships, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” The cross reveals the amazing love of God in the Suffering Messiah who takes the pain of the world upon himself. We are told that we see him as stricken by God. In reality, the cross is where Jesus was “pierced for our transgression … crushed for our iniquities.” Most people would not knowingly get near someone with the COVID virus. But if it were my wife or my children, I wouldn’t hesitate to draw them near in an embrace to comfort them with my love. In essence, this is what the prophet means by these words. Jesus didn’t just feel our pain. He actually took on all the estrangement and brokenness and hurt caused by sin. The cross is where God embraces us with the arms of His Son to meet the deepest need of our fallen humanity by taking our pain to Himself. This is the amazing love of the cross! The cross reveals we each play a part in the troubles of the world. The prophet doesn’t allow anyone to escape this truth by pointing the finger of blame at someone else. It is “our transgressions” and “our iniquities.” Every person is identified as being like a sheep that wanders away from the voice and the care of the shepherd. We wander as far away as we can by turning to go our own way. It was the iniquity of us all that the Lord laid upon the suffering servant. So, the love of the cross leads us to honestly confess how we contribute to the problems. Yet, the cross doesn’t leave us with the guilt. At Calvary, our eyes open to see Jesus as the Lamb of God by whose wounds we are healed. His blood washes away our sins that we may receive a new life to start over again. Yesterday’s failures don’t have to determine how we live today. And now we see, the first stop on the road to Easter is the Cross by which God’s love bore the sorrow and grief of the world. If Jesus loved us so much as to take our Cross that we may know Easter’s joy, isn’t it possible through His love to come alongside one another to carry together the troubles we all share? Pause this week at the Cross to ponder His great love for us that calls us to carry the burdens of our time together; for we know where Jesus’ road ends — at the empty tomb of Easter! We may not feel the other’s pain, but we will listen before we speak. We will understand from where others come that we may speak of the Good News of Life to a world desperate for a word that leads to faith to inspire hope and peace and love.