Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Day 28, April 10, 2020
“Man of Sorrows”

Haunting…yet holy. That is the best way I can describe an experience that is still as real to me as the night it happened, which was 40 years ago during Holy Week. I was the stage manager for a musical our youth choir put together. The singers and musicians performed The Witness, a popular production from the 70s that told the story of Jesus Christ, from calling fishermen in that sleepy little villages of Galilee all the way to his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

One night at the climactic moment of the musical, when Jesus was being nailed to the cross, as the offstage sound of a hammer slowly pounding nails echoed through the sanctuary of a small church in northern California, something beyond dramatic happened. A mighty gust blew the doors and windows of that sanctuary open and the howling sound of the wind filled the sanctuary. The sound was haunting, and yet the sound was holy. The wind is often associated with the Holy Spirit. At the critical moment in the life of Jesus, being acted out on a stage, when he seemed abandoned and left all alone, it was as if the Holy Spirit rushed in to remind us that Jesus was not alone, to remind us that Jesus was not abandoned. God would strengthen him for his final human act. God would sustain him as he endured the ultimate in human suffering and pain.

The death of Jesus on the cross lends itself to hammers and nails. His death was physical, and it was as real as the piercing of the sharp nails and the hard steel of the hammer. Perhaps even more haunting, and more holy than the hammer and nails, is the description of the death of God’s Servant as portrayed in Isaiah 53. In Isaiah there are no hammers, no nails, no sound effects, just the blow by blow description of how God’s Servant would suffer, a description that mirrors the actual death of Jesus.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted…

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…

He 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…

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53, selected)

On this Good Friday, a day that is both haunting and holy, I direct your attention to a hymn inspired by Isaiah 53. Titled, “Man of Sorrows”, the hymn is both haunting and ever so holy.

“Man of Sorrow!” what a name for the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood,

Sealed my pardon with his blood, Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He;

Full atonement can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished” was his cry;

Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah, what a Savior!

And then rising to glorious hope, the hope we will celebrate in just two days, the final verse exclaims!

When he comes our Glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring,

Then anew this song we’ll sing, Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is haunting. It is tragic. It is terrible. But because of God’s presence and God’s power on that terrible day, the crucifixion is both haunting and holy.

With the love of Christ,

Readings for Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; John 18:1-19:42