Friday, March 25, 2005

Isaiah 53:1-7,9,11-12 - “The Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted Savior That We Need”

(“Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” – Lutheran Worship #116)
For text of hymn, click here and scroll down to hymn title

Good Friday
Friday, March 25, 2005

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted. Stricken, strike, struck with the blows of disease and sin. Smitten, smite, smote, smiting, suddenly injuring and killing with a heavy blow. Afflicted, afflict, bringing severe trouble causing persistent, lasting suffering and anguish.

This Jesus now hanging on the cross has been struck with the blows of disease and death—the consequences of sin. The soldiers smite him with their fists, whips, and swords. He is afflicted, suffering on that awful afternoon. How disgraceful! This Jesus must be so beneath us.

It’s as if you saw Jesus in the alleys picking up trash. How disgraceful! Is Jesus actually going to unclog my toilet? Is Jesus picking out lice from hair and wiping up vomit? How disgraceful! Is Jesus cleaning up our pus-filled wounds? What awful, dirty, difficult work—Jesus, out there touching all of our human waste. This Jesus must be stricken, smitten, and afflicted, punished by God for some terrible act.

Isaiah’s right, it’s easy to consider Jesus to be “stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted.” It’s easy to sing those words in the hymn, “stricken, smitten, and afflicted,” because you think of the cross, you think of this poor, ugly creature being put to death, and you think, “Surely, Jesus must have been disgraceful for the people to choose to crucify Him. Jesus must have been distasteful, disfigured, disrobed, disappointing, disagreeable, dishonorable.”

What a strange man, this Jesus, who came and took on people’s infirmities and sorrows. I suppose it just sort of looks like Jesus was being punished and suffering for His own wickedness. Little would we guess that he was picking up our trash in the alleys, our vomit, blood, pus, and waste. When Jesus dies on the cross, it looks like His own suffering, His own crime, His own death. It’s easy to say that Jesus was simply dying for Himself. Yet, if we say that, we’re missing the spiritual reality.

Jesus was stricken by God with the blows meant for our sins. Jesus was smitten by God to the death we deserve. Jesus was afflicted with the severe trouble we’ve brought about in the world. All of our sins were given to Him, so that He died in punishment for those sins. All of the consequences of sin—all of the diseases, troubles, broken down places, and death—was given to Him, so that He took on those consequences.

On the cross, Jesus did more than share in our suffering; He actually bore our suffering, carried it, lugged it, fell under its weight. He actively came seeking to take our suffering onto Himself.

Imagine Jesus walking around, plucking away the suffering from people in the world, and adding them to His own body. That’s what happened on the cross. Imagine Jesus taking your colds, your flu, and your pneumonia. Jesus just opens up His own body, starts collecting the world’s suffering and taking it into Himself. That’s what happened on the cross. He took the tumors and implanted them in Himself. He contracted AIDS. He lost His hand in a roadside bomb. He drank the poisoned water.

All of our suffering was poured into Jesus when He died on that cross. We may look at Jesus as the most luckless, hapless, sorry excuse for a Savior, because He came preaching victory and then He dies. Yet, in that death, He collected all of our suffering, all of our punishment, our full amount of death and separation from God. There’s no failure in this. This is what He meant to do.

As Isaiah says, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.” There could be no peace without punishment, but instead of us being punished and dying forever, Jesus took that punishment Himself. As Isaiah says, “By His wounds, we are healed.” Jesus takes the blows, but through this, there is healing for us, forgiveness for us, salvation for us.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted. Those that don’t know about Jesus would look in here today, hear what we’ve read from the Bible, hear about our God being put to death on a cross, and they’d say, “Your God is stricken, smitten, and afflicted.”

Yet, they’d hear us singing, “Christ, the rock of our salvation/His the Name of which we boast.” They’d hear us proclaiming that Christ is still our King and Savior. They’d hear us worshipping and honoring Jesus. They’d hear us applying His Name to ourselves, calling ourselves Christians, reminding ourselves that we’ve been baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Rather than trying to distance ourselves from this stricken, smitten, afflicted, disgraceful, dishonorable figure on the cross, those that would observe us today would see us trusting and believing and praising and loving and tying our hopes to that figure on the cross.

This Jesus that the world would see as defeated, we have seen as victorious. He is the stricken, smitten, and afflicted Savior that we need. Through the Holy Spirit working in the Word of God and working in our hearts, we’ve been given a glimpse of the spiritual reality. We hear Isaiah report God’s words, “I will give Him a portion among the great.” When God the Father sees God the Son die on the cross, the Father declares that this makes the Son truly great, truly honored, truly at His right hand of power and glory.

We rejoice today. We call today Good Friday. We do the complete opposite of what people would expect us to do, because there was something more going on when Jesus died, something more than meets the eye. Jesus “bore the sins of the many.” Jesus was “sacrificed to cancel guilt.” There is victory in His death, and that’s why we sing praises today—a day of suffering and death. That’s why we raise the Name of Christ—a man many would simply despise and reject.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted. “A man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.” There’s an old traditional song called “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” using a phrase reminiscent of Isaiah’s words. The song’s lyrics are applied to someone going through tough times, but many of the sorrows in the song could also apply to our Lord Jesus. “I am a man of constant sorrow/I've seen trouble all my day…I have no friends to help me now…Maybe your friends think I’m just a stranger/My face you’ll never see no more./But there is one promise that is given/I’ll meet you on God's golden shore.”

Jesus knew constant sorrow—seeing His world, His people rejecting His message from God the Father. Jesus knew trouble all His day—crowds and leaders looking for ways to trick Him and use Him and kill Him. When it finally came time for His arrest, Jesus had no friends to help Him now—deserting Him, running away scared, denying Him, hiding.

Then Jesus speaks hopeful words to the thief on the cross. “Maybe your friends think I’m just a stranger/My face you’ll never see no more.” Jesus tells the thief on the cross, “Maybe your fellow thief thinks I’m just a stranger, a disgraceful man, a dishonorable, despicable man, someone he can make fun of and mock. Maybe your fellow thief thinks that you can do this to me, because we’ll die and you’ll never see me again, but I’m telling you, I’m telling you that there is one promise given, I’ll meet you on God’s golden shore.” Today you will be with Me in paradise. In My Father’s house are many rooms.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and still this man, this Jesus is speaking hopeful, promising words on the cross. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and yet, that’s exactly why we’ll meet on God’s golden shore, why we’ll be with our God forever. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, but it’s a good strike, it’s a good smite, it’s a good affliction. It wasn’t good for Jesus; it was the unabridged suffering for all mankind of all time. It wasn’t good for Jesus, but it is good for us.

Jesus was stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and so now, we will not be stricken with eternal death. We will not be smitten by Satan’s fatal blow. We will not be afflicted with hell’s disease.

So thank God for this stricken, smitten, and afflicted day. Thank God for this stricken, smitten, and afflicted Lord. That’s why we sang the hymn, singing of the hopes we have in Him: “Here, my soul, your Savior see./He’s the long-expected prophet,…/He’s the true and faithful Word…/Here we have a firm foundation; Here the refuge of the lost.”

He is not what we expected, but Jesus is the Savior we need.