For the first day of Lent, we shared Jeren Rowell’s Ash Wednesday devotional from These Forty Days: A Lenten Devotional and provided the entire reading plan on the blog so that all The Community blog readers could explore Lent together. As we approach the end of Holy Week, The Community with be sharing the devotional reflections for Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter as we anticipate our Lords death and resurrection.
BIBLE TEXT: Isaiah 53: 1-6
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
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.
In the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, just before the soldiers who were sent to bring Private Ryan to safety are able to deliver him, they are enmeshed in a terrible battle. All of them are killed. But just before the captain dies, he grabs Ryan by the jacket and whispers with his last breath, “Earn this.”8 It haunts James Ryan for the rest of his life. The film ends with the sixty-five-year-old Ryan visiting the graves in Normandy of the men who saved his life. He is overcome with emotion as he thinks about the fact that others died for him. In that moment he looks hopefully into the eyes of his wife and pleads, “Tell me I have led a good life. . . . Tell me I’m a good man.”9
When someone dies for us, it demands a response. Certainly the response should involve tremendous gratitude, and our marking of this holy day should include expressions of our gratitude to God. However, expressing our gratitude needs to go far beyond an emotional response to the image of Jesus on the cross. Gratitude should also issue in a way of life that is a response to the reason our Lord gave himself for us. Jesus died to free us from enslavement to sin and death. Jesus defeated sin and death by his death and resurrection. Therefore, we are able, by the grace and mercy of God, to live our lives in freedom from sin and in the sure hope of the resurrection. If we are walking through life with a sense of defeat and hopelessness, we are missing the good news of the gospel. Our Good Friday opportunity is not only to recognize the depth of our sin that was answered on the cross but also to embrace lives that are marked by freedom from the values and priorities of this world and illumined by the bright hope for the redemption of all things in Christ.
PRAYER FOR GOOD FRIDAY
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.