THE SERVANT GENERAL
AND THE CROSS
It is Good Friday. Today is Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
did Jesus have to die on the cross? Could our salvation and
reconciliation with God not be secured by some other way?
The answer is no.
“According to the law almost everything is purified
by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
(Heb 9:22). “Since the life of a living body is in its
blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement
may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the
blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement.” (Lv
17:11). Thus, in accordance with the Old Covenant, an animal
was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the offeror. Blood
had to be shed.
Since our sins are against God Himself, what had to be sacrificed
was a lamb without blemish. But only God Himself is perfectly
pure. So His very own Son became the sacrificial lamb. Jesus
is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
There is another reason why Jesus went to the cross. This
one is less theological but more practical. Jesus showed the
way to enduring suffering and affliction, which all of us
can expect to experience in the world. There is a very important
aspect to suffering that has to do with the very salvation
of the world. God wanted to teach us something.
How was it with Jesus himself? “Son though he was, he
learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made
perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all
who obey him” (Heb 8-9).
we see an important progression:
> obedience > perfection > salvation
We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We are
children of God, as Jesus was His Son. We are to be used as
His instruments of salvation, as Jesus was the very Savior.
We are to carry our crosses, as Jesus did. We are to die to
self, as Jesus died for us.
God offered His own Son on the cross. Since we are His children
whom He loves, God allows affliction, “for whom the
Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
(Heb 12:6). If not, then we are not sons but bastards (Heb
12:7-8). God offered Jesus for our benefit. God disciplines
us also for our benefit, “in order that we may share
his holiness” (Heb 12:10b). For what purpose? For us
to receive “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”
So there will be suffering in life. Affliction and crosses
purify us. They make us cling to God more. We learn obedience
to His divine will. When we obey and walk in His ways, we
will grow in holiness. We move to become perfect as the heavenly
Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). As we grow in holiness, as we
become more like Jesus, we strengthen our witness and we receive
greater anointing by the Spirit. We become God’s instruments
to evangelize, to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus
This is the process by which Jesus’ sacrifice on the
cross will bring salvation to the world.
Today’s readings have much to teach us. We turn now
to the lessons God gave us two years ago. Here again is the
reflection offered in 2007 (From the book “Forty Days
Jesus as the Model for our Lamentations
are my rock and my fortress”
It is Good Friday.
Today we celebrate the passion and death of our Lord Jesus
Christ (Jn 18:1-19:42). Jesus’ death and resurrection
are what have won for us our salvation. They are at the very
core of our covenant with God as Christians. They also point
us to the spirituality we live and the gospel we proclaim.
It is the spirituality and gospel of the cross. It is the
spirituality of Lamentations, where in our sorrow is already
the seed of hope and joy.
A spirituality of the cross is not easy. In fact, it is very
difficult to live. This is one reason why we need to be always
focused on Jesus. “For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who
has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
(Hb 4:15). Jesus has gone through it all. He has suffered
terribly. In the light of his passion and death, our own sufferings
are very small. In addition, Jesus understands our lamentations.
He sympathizes with our weaknesses and failures. “So
let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive
mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Hb 4:16).
God’s grace is abundant. His mercies are not exhausted.
His help is always available.
Jesus is our model in relating to the Father in our lamentations.
“In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers
and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who
was able to save him from death, and he was heard because
of his reverence.” (Hb 5:7). Jesus as fully human agonized
during his passion, and looked to God for help and deliverance.
And he was heard. And he learned the lessons of Lamentations.
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he
suffered” (Hb 5:8). Our deliverance and restoration
lie in our obedience to God. And because of Jesus’ reverence
and obedience, “when he was made perfect, he became
the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”
(Hb 5:9). When we in turn obey Jesus, then we will experience
restoration and enjoy eternal salvation.
What suffering did Jesus have to endure? Isaiah 52:13-53:12
is the fourth and last of the “Servant of the Lord”
oracles. It is prophecy perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
It is an extraordinary description of the suffering Servant
who atones for the collective guilt of his people and saves
them from the just punishment of God.
and over, Isaiah speaks about how Jesus suffered for our sins.
it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that
he endured” (Is 53:4a).
he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins”
him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes
we were healed.” (Is 53:5b)
the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Is 53:6b)
and condemned, he was taken away, ….. he was cut off
from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of
his people” (Is 53:8).
the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. …..
he gives his life as an offering for sin” (Is 53:10).
his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their
guilt he shall bear.” (Is 53:11b)
he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for
their offenses.” (Is 53:12c)
Extraordinary! Inscrutable! God Himself has suffered and died
for my sins! How can I not offer Him my life in return? How
can I hold anything back from Him? My only vocation in life
should be to ensure that God’s “servant shall
prosper, (that) he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.”
(Is 52:13). Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
“So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings
shall stand speechless” (Is 52:15a). I can only commit
my whole life to proclaiming His glory among the nations,
so that “those who have not been told shall see, those
who have not heard shall ponder it” (Is 52:15b).
Jesus himself was in lamentations, but this gave us hope and
Because of what Jesus has done for us, and what he continues
to want to do for us, what now is he to us? Who is he? Jesus
Our refuge, in whom we can never be put to shame (Ps 31:2).
Our rock of refuge and our stronghold, through whom we are
saved (Ps 31:3).
Our rock and our fortress, who leads and guides us (Ps 31:4).
Our refuge, who frees us from the snare (Ps 31:5).
Our faithful God, who redeems us (Ps 31:6b).
As Jesus is all that, the only reasonable response we can
have to him is:
To place the totality of our being, our very well-being,
into his hands (Ps 31:6a).
To trust in him (Ps 31:7b,15).
To rejoice and be glad in his love (Ps 31:8a).
Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge who Jesus is and
what he does for us. Let us praise him and proclaim him to
the whole world.
are my rock and my fortress” (Ps 31:4a).
are my refuge” (Ps 31:5b).
You are “Lord, faithful God” (Ps 31:6b).
are my God.” (Ps 31:15)
great is your goodness, Lord” (Ps 31:20).
be the Lord, who has shown me wondrous love” (Ps 31:22).
Jesus suffered and went to the cross. We are to follow in
his steps. We too are to take up our cross. But even as our
crosses in life bring us to lamentations, we know where we
truly are going. Jesus has gone before us. Jesus has shown
us the way. Jesus knows what our pains, fears and tears are
We know the extent of God’s love for us. The Father’s
love took human form in Jesus. And Jesus shed his precious
blood to seal our covenant. And even now, Jesus walks with
us, and bears our yoke with us. We therefore can face life—with
all its ups and downs, with all its pains and joys—with
confidence. In God we trust. Jesus brings us victory, hope
kind of God we have: The God who died for us.
response: Embrace the cross.
So our appropriate covenant response is to embrace the cross
Why? It is God’s will. Through Jesus’ crucifixion,
“the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through
him” (Is 53:10c). It is God’s way to bring forgiveness
for our sins and our justification. “Through his suffering,
my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”
(Is 53:11b). It is God’s way to bring salvation and
life to the world. “If he gives his life as an offering
for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life”
Thus, “the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.”
It is simply God’s way. In His love for us, God treats
us the same way.
So we embrace the cross, just as Jesus did. And our continuing
work is to proclaim the cross of Christ, so that many others
will benefit from Jesus’ salvific sacrifice.
Following is one of the many lessons of Lamentations that
we need to learn, from the book “Forty Days of Lamentations.”
111 – We proclaim a gospel of the cross.
“we proclaim Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23a)
The gospel of prosperity is popular and attracts many because
it caters to what people want—money, success, healing,
romance, and so on. But while God certainly wants to bless
His people and give them good things, this is not the true
gospel. The authentic gospel is a gospel of the cross, and
so “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block
to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:23).
The gospel of the cross is the way to true discipleship. Jesus
says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny
himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
(Lk 9:23). Jesus goes further: “Whoever does not carry
his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
(Lk 14:27). We do know that if we follow Jesus, then that
path leads all the way to the cross.
But the cross of Christ is what brings salvation. “The
message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Cor 1:18). The cross of Christ is what brings joy and glory.
“For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured
the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at
the right of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2b).
Let us then proclaim, “But may I never boast except
in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world
has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal
proclaim the gospel of the cross.
The cross of Christ is the very instrument of our salvation.
This is a great mystery.
Jesus has already shown us the way. Let us acknowledge Jesus
as our Savior and Lord, and always put our hope and trust
I trust in you, Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’”
April 10, 2009
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