A Startling Thought for Good Friday

“He shall startle many nations.” Isaiah 52:15

Our two youngest granddaughters have been here this week. Anabel, who is six, was looking into a spot on Jeanie’s hand where a small growth had been removed. She stared through a magnifying glass, then announced: “There’s a badness in there.” Her two and a half year old sister, Leighton, not to be left out, said, “There’s a badness in me too”!

This morning, Good Friday, I remembered this as I read Isaiah’s moving passage on the Suffering Servant, who being exalted “would startle many nations” just as many were astonished at his appearance, marred “beyond human semblance.”

Just how will he “startle” many nations? Because they will see something they had never seen: how God could take the worst thing we humans have ever done – the rejection of his Servant Son – and turn it into the best thing ever done for us.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…The righteous one…shall make many righteous.

God’s forgiveness – how he forgives – this is startling, what the world had never seen before.

As Richard Rohr writes, “God will even use your sins to transform you!” Why does he believe that? Because that’s how Jesus responded to people. When he met the Samaritan woman with her five husbands he didn’t check out how many commandments she had disobeyed. Instead, he made her an apostle!

“The mark of sin shall be turned into honor,” wrote Julian of Norwich.

What “badness” is in me, that I most regret? What have I done that I am most ashamed of? That I least want to tell you about? The startling thing is that God can make these wounds well.

Who has been in the headlines that makes you most angry this week? Who has betrayed us so much that we want to keep reminding ourselves how bad they have been? Can I believe that the Suffering Servant can even redeem even their badness?

If God’s Suffering Servant brought good – our salvation – out of the worst evil ever, can I believe today that he can bring good out of lesser evils?

Isaiah’s great Servant song ends: “He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).

All this day, I want to keep saying to my servant Lord:

You died for the badness in me and the world.
You are praying for me.
And your prayers will be answered!

That is startling! That is reason to sing and shout!

Leighton Ford

March 21, 2008

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