O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Your Man of Sorrows
Your Man of Sorrows
Based on Isaiah 53
Preached on April 3, 2015
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Fellow baptized saints, would it surprise you to know that there isn't a single instance in any of the Gospels which describe Jesus as "happy"? No, happiness was not an emotion ever attributed to Jesus. Instead, Isaiah called Him "a man of sorrows."
Now, there are two occasions when we are told that Jesus rejoiced, but neither one of them would strike you and I as reasons to be happy. In fact, one of them involves Him telling His disciples that Lazarus is dead. There may have been things during His ministry that gave Him joy, and I have no doubt He also laughed, but overall, Jesus wasn't a happy man. He was a man of sorrows.
Now, this is a sobering thought, isn't it? Especially when our entire consumer-addicted culture is designed around squeezing you out some tiny moment of happiness for just the right price. The top song on the radio last year was entitled "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, in which he got us all to sing
"Because I'm happy - Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth - Because I'm happy - Clap along if you know what happiness is to you"
So is happiness the truth? Or is the man of sorrows?
Jesus was not a man of sorrows because He felt sorry for Himself, or the pain He came to endure. No, the source of His sorrow was us. His creation. His once perfect, yet fallen creation. Everywhere He looked, everywhere He travelled during His whole life He encountered all sorts of unnecessary sadness and pain – and it hurt Him to no end. People making bad decision after bad decision. People hurting themselves and those they love. People trying to fix their sin with more sin thinking it will make them "happy" only to increase their suffering. Jesus has eyes of compassion – a heart that hurts along with those in pain - so when He witnessed the futility and stupidity of pride, greed and lust, it brought Him nothing but grief.
Our Lord's other high-frequency emotion in the Gospels is anger. Sin makes God mad, mad enough to destroy the whole world in a flood, mad enough to bring the waves down on Pharoah's head and turn Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, mad enough to make things so bad that the people would think barrenness was a blessing and beg the hills to fall upon them.
Good Friday is about God's wrath, like it or not. God's wrath is revealed as He casts it upon His Son on our behalf. Not just on Good Friday but throughout our Lord's ministry, we see His frustration, sadness and anger over and at sin. He has no sympathy for the demons. And remember the fig tree He cursed. Remember the violence He inflicted upon the money changers. Remember how He called St. Peter "Satan." The lion of Judah, meek and mild, goes as a lamb to the slaughter, but He is no pussycat. He is the stronger man, and He is angry.
Then there is love. "Jesus loves me, this I know." Indeed. There may be no more profound statement in all the world. But that love is not what we usually think. That love is not Jesus sitting in heaven thinking happy thoughts about us. That love is sorrow, pain and death.
But we don't think of love this way, do we? When we think of love, we think of romance, as though it is the ideal kind of love. But not every culture has thought this way. Aristotle thought the highest form of love was friendship. But our modern-day movies about friendship, like Up or Toy Story, are mainly for children. That is because our ideal love is something more like Titanic or Gone with the Wind where love is magic and out of control. It can't be explained and it should never be suppressed. We can't help loving whom we love and we shouldn't be held accountable for crimes that serve our ideal. "All you need is love," pined the Beatles, and we sang along as though we did not need clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home.
This romantic view of love is even more selfish than it sounds. What we think of as love is really the contentment, peace or happiness that others cause us to feel inside ourselves. What we are looking for in love is a soulmate who completes us, satisfies us, with whom we connect, so that when we spend time together the hours slip away in deep pleasure. But this is the cause of many a divorce, because this kind of love is pure fantasy, and while it can be found for a short time in infatuation, it is not real and does not last.
Be honest - Is there any more of a whiny and selfish complaint than "I just want to be happy"? Really? "Just" happy? Why not say you "just" want everything to be perfect? There is no such thing as "just" happy. Imagine our soldiers engaged in combat overseas saying, "I just want to be happy." The statement is pure selfishness of the worst order. And if we haven't all said it, we've all thought it. Repent.
The problem with what we consider to be love is that it resides in the feelings of the lover. We don't love them for them, we love them for how they make us feel, and if that feeling wasn't good and positive and enjoyable, we wouldn't call it love.
But what happens when those you love do something irreparable. What happens when they make you feel more sad than you think you can bear, even sorrowful unto death. What happens when they betray you and abandon you and leave you to die at the hands of your enemies. What happens then? How do you look at them and say "I love you. You are so sweet"?
But this is how God loves us. This is how Christ goes to the cross. His love for us does not make Him happy. Love hurts. That is why mothers cry when their daughters marry. And that is why we speak of the last days of our Lord's life as His passion.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave His only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not be destroyed but have everlasting life. He gave Jesus into death as a ransom for rebels who hated Him and killed Him and who chose Satan and Barrabas over Him. This is how the Lord loves liars and murderers and back-sliders and all the rest. This is how the Lord loves you. The death of God's Son is how He loves the world. But that love is sadness and anger, sorrow and pain.
The love of God is self-giving. It does not serve itself, but it serves the One it loves. God's love for us does not fill Him with happy thoughts or make Him glad to see us. His love is service, action, and death. God's love hurts Him. It causes His heart to break and water and blood to pour out. His love is not a feeling or an emotion, it is who He is and what He does.
And yet, what the Gospels don't report in terms of emotion, the prophet Isaiah does: "Out of anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied." The Gospels don't describe Jesus as happy, but Isaiah describes Him, in the end, as satisfied. The Lord is satisfied because He has fulfilled His mission. He is satisfied because it is finished, accomplished, complete. He has loved and is loving His Father. And He has defeated death for all.
(slow) Here is the great and wonderful surprise: You are the labour of His soul, the plunder of hell stolen away, the reward of the Father returned to its rightful place and beyond. You are His seed, the sons of God, the brothers of Jesus, the immaculate bride chosen in perfect grace. In you, He is satisfied. Because by grace, you have believed His promise and rejoiced in it. You are God's own beloved, whose iniquity is removed, whose sin is gone, whose shame is no more. And the One who was lifted up from the earth, has drawn you to Himself and He is your Lord.
That is why we celebrate and rejoice in the sorrows of the man of sorrows. That is why this Friday is good Friday, and not bad Friday or sad Friday. This is the day the Lord has made; the day God gave us His Son - let us rejoice and be glad in it. It is the day that belongs to Him, by which He sanctifies all men and by which He has recreated the world.
(slow) We should love and embrace today, even as a bride embraces and loves her wedding day, for that is precisely what it is. And soon the marriage will be consumated, not when the stone is rolled away and Jesus is missing, but when Jesus enters into us in His risen body and blood and takes us for Himself in His Holy Supper. For know this above all, dear sad sinners: Jesus, who loves you, is risen and lives and is satisfied in you, that you are His. In His holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr