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(Part 32)


Good Friday
March 25, 2016

Today’s readings:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2-25
Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

Today Jesus is crucified (Jn 19:16b-18). What horrible torture he endured--the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion itself. “So marred were his features” (Is 52:14b). Aside from that, there was the betrayal of Judas, the abandonment of the apostles, the denial of Peter, the mocking by the soldiers, the rejection by the Jews. “To all my foes I am a thing of scorn, and especially to my neighbors a horror to my friends” (Ps 31:12a).

Why did Jesus, who was innocent, endure all that? It was to pay the price for our sins. “But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.” (Is 53:5a). It was to take on the punishment that we deserved. “He bore the punishment that makes us whole” (Is 53:5b). It was to win for us our salvation. “By his wounds we were healed.” (Is 53:5c).

We were the ones who deserved condemnation and punishment. To satisfy the demands of justice, Jesus took it all on. “Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.” (Is 53:4a). We are the ones who strayed from the right path, who rejected the ways of God to go our own way, who are guilty of grave sins. “We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way” (Is 53:6a). But Jesus took all the punishment that we deserved. “But it was the Lord’s will to crush him with pain.” (Is 53:10a). Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. “But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Is 53:6b). Thus Jesus satisfied the justice of God. “My servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear.” (Is 53:11c).

What can we call such foolishness, such injustice, such inhumanity? That is mercy.

Mercy is not just empathy or compassion. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb 4:15a). Mercy is not just forgiveness. Mercy is not just withholding the punishment that is due. The mercy of God is actually taking on punishment, but punishment that is deserved by others. We may have pity on the difficulties and suffering of others, we may graciously forgive those who have sinned against us, we may choose not to stand on our rights and even turn the other cheek. But Jesus did more and gave more, enduring horrible suffering and pain, shedding his precious blood, and finally giving his very life. He was not only innocent of sin, but he actually was the object of our sins.

That is divine mercy.

Today we still sin, and we still wallow in the mire. By ourselves there is no way out. But God is merciful and Jesus already paid the price for our sins. We can look to God’s mercy. “I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy, once you have seen my misery, and gotten to know the distress of my soul.” (Ps 31:8). We can be confident that when we turn to God, despite our sinfulness, he will show us mercy. “Though I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your eyes.’ Yet you heard my voice, my cry for mercy, when I pleaded with you for help.” (Ps 31:23).

Today we look to Jesus’ great sacrifice. None of our struggles and suffering on earth can ever compare with what Jesus endured for us. God showed us great mercy. The icon of mercy is Christ crucified. “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Heb 4:16).

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