I can’t bear to look Isaiah 52:13-53:12
There are some things in this world that we just can’t bear to look at or dare to love. Mould is something we all hate to see or smell, especially if it is growing on something we just took a bite out of! It looks horrible, all fury, bluey and black in colour and it also smells terrible. What good could come out of such a disgusting growth? Penicillin!
Yes, from something so foul actually extrudes something that is a life giving antibiotic. Out of a dying, mould infested piece of bread is harvested a life saving drug named penicillin, a drug that ushered in the new world of antibiotics; a drug that now save hundreds of lives each day. From something we cannot bear to look at comes a life-giving drug.
While there were no cameras in Jesus day, the prophet Isaiah gives us a word picture of God’s chosen messiah, Jesus; whom we picture in our minds as beautiful, with long flowing blond hair with strongly contoured cheek bones. Isaiah, prompted by the Spirit, 1000’s of years before his birth, depicts Jesus like a piece of mould. Someone we could not even bear to look at.
He writes ‘there were many who were appalled at him–his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness—He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him–Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.’
Jesus, hanging on the cross, looks for all purposes like a dying piece of bread covered in mould, rather than the ‘bread of heaven’ that he said he was. He is bruised by his beating, bleeding from his whipping; agony is on his face. His flesh cut so badly you could see his muscles and tendons being ripped from his joints as he is suspended by just three sharp nails. His bones are all showing. There is nothing of him that would make us want to look at him. No, he was to be despised. Jesus, the bread from heaven, the life giving bread hangs dying, like a piece of bread covered in mould. What good could come of this?
He is indeed the bread of heaven, the bread of life, because out of Jesus veins pour a life giving flow of blood. He is precisely the bread from heaven because he is dying, disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness. We can’t bear to look at him because he is our sin; he is the ugliness, the smell, the horror of our sin; he is the bread from heaven, covered in the mould of our sin, so that through his death for us, out of his veins would flow the life giving blood that will heal us from death.
Isaiah foretells this saying ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’ It was our sins that he died for, it is his blood that gives life.
Penicillin was invented many years ago, but today we receive its benefits as we take its healing properties into our bodies. In the same way, Jesus died on the cross some two thousand years ago, but his blood still flows for us today, filling us with its healing properties as we drink of the cup in Holy Communion. Jesus comes before us today, in the word of God through simple bread and wine, nothing to look at, no beauty or majesty to attract us to it, nothing in its appearance that we should desire it. Many– hide their faces and esteem it not.’ Yet, by the very word of God, this simple bread and wine is the body and blood of Jesus that freely gives us the forgiveness of sins and victory over death that he won for us that first Good Friday.
Martin Luther speaks of it this way ‘If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ…in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore…whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me.
And the peace which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus this Good Friday. Amen
Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther’s works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 40, Page 214). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.