“Crushed for us”
It is good and proper to say that eating your vegetables is good for you. However, it is a rare bird that says “eating vegetables” is an enjoyable experience. Getting medical shots as a young child are necessary and good, but hardly a positive experience. Good Friday is good, meaningful, and of ultimate importance for the Christian, but it certainly isn’t pretty. There is simply no way to dress up Good Friday to make the events surrounding our Lord’s crucifixion outwardly appealing. For in the crucifixion of our Lord and in the events leading up to it, we see and experience humanity at its worst. The devil, the world, and our flesh (our sinful) nature and their influence are there for all to see. While I suppose the betrayals, denials, selfishness, mockery, and our Lord’s public death itself could make for a good novel. This is no detached novel speaking of events that happened two thousand years ago in a strange land. This is our story, our account, a look into what humanity left to itself will do “to have life” on their own terms. Yet, it is Good Friday for Jesus came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.
The language of our reading in Isaiah is alarmingly clear, and unusually blunt. He describes this good Jesus, as having no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. He describes his appearance as one where we hide our faces. Taking our sin, and bearing our sorrows simply isn’t pretty. He then says he was “crushed for our iniquities”. A visual that has with it both violence and complete destruction. We tend to soften the blow when it comes to death. Understandably we say someone passed on, or even in the New Testament they will use a phrase like sleeping. Yet, the stunning aspect of Jesus being crushed for us, is the ultimate reason he chose to go that route. We know it was and is our sins, our sorrows, our infirmities that he absorbed on the cross. Yet it in Isaiah 53:10 it sates “It was the Lord’s Will to crush him and cause him to suffer”. Here we see the divine willingness of the Father and the Son to take on the devil, the world, and our sinful nature head on. It says in Colossians 2:15 he “disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them, and triumphing over them…”
Him being crushed was the only way the human failings so demonstrated could properly be dealt with. What were these failings? Just a few will suffice tonight. There was the betrayal, by one of his very own, Judas himself. Being betrayed by someone we thought cared deeply for us. Betrayal comes in many forms, maybe as large as adultery, maybe as seemingly small as a bit of gossip. Inwardly, if not so outwardly there is little Judas in all of us. In thought word and deed, the bible says we have “betrayed our Lord” by the things done and especially by the things left undone.
Then there is denial, a seemingly more subtle form of betrayal. This denial was seen by the sleeping disciples as Jesus longed for their companionship at Gethsemene. It is especially seen as Peter was caught by a servant girl. Peter cursed his Lord, not once, not twice, but three times. He even claimed to not have known the man. After hearing the rooster crow three times Peter “went outside and wept bitterly”. He like Judas had been caught in their sins. Would Jesus death on the cross actually cover their shame, sorrow and guilt? Judas, did not believe so, but by the grace of God Peter was restored, and just fifty days later was publicly preaching the first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost.
There was also the selfishness of Pilate. He tried to do the right thing, but in the end faltered where we all falter. Convenience over “doing the right thing”, to easily wins the day. In his case he “satisfied the crowd”, and even though he tried to “wash his hands of the whole event” he, like you and me was anything but innocent. Isaiah 53 says “ we all like sheep have gone astray in our own way, the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Then there is the mockery, the shame, and ultimately this all leads to death, and there is nothing nice about that. We live in a world that is dying both physically and spiritually. In our Lord’s passion as noted either Isaiah or one of the gospels, the process of death is discussed in “uncomfortable detail”. We want to move on but there it is, everything that is wrong with humanity is there to see.
Yet it is still “Good Friday”, and here the death defying, Satan conquering, world crushing Savior will do the very good thing for you and me.
In his book Written in Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.“Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.” Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room—Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. With the ordeal almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. “Doctor, when do I die?’ Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he’d agreed to donate his blood. He’s thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he’d made his great decision.
Johnny, fortunately, didn’t have to die to save his sister. However, Jesus shed us blood and was crushed for us, so that his life would now be our real hope in the midst of betrayal, denials, selfishness, mockery, infirmity, sin and yes death itself. Yes, it is a good, no make that very Good Friday. Amen.