“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)
This familiar passage will be read at many Good Friday services. But we may know it well enough to miss the totality of the message. Jesus did not leave the Father and Spirit to take on flesh for a possible salvation. Jesus did not suffer the shame and pain for a partial victory. Jesus was not punished by God for most of our righteousness. Jesus was not crushed for our iniquities so that we might be set on the road to recovery. No—God laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all to heal us completely and to make our peace with Him.
While this truth seems self-evident, many live by a different standard. Paul reminded the Roman believers that the Jews were zealous for God, but they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to establish their own. We can celebrate the completion of Christ’s work on Easter and then slip back into a life marked by striving to gain God’s pleasure through our efforts to be better. Frustrated by God’s standard of perfection or even our own watered-down version, we stumble along bereft of the joy of knowing that we are His beloved because we are in the Beloved!
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Hold fast to the truth that you are dearly loved children. It was Christ’s death that purchased adoption. Only as we look to our loving Father will we see clearly to imitate the love of Christ in the power of the Spirit—giving thanks in all circumstances as we are led by our Father’s hand.