Scripture Readings: Isaiah 52:13–53:12 | Psalm 22 | Hebrews 4:14–16, 5:7–9 | John 18:1–19:42
Don’t look away!
Today we stand confronted with two hard realities which have the tendency to trouble and disturb us, tempting us to avert our eyes and do our best to ignore them: I’m referring to the words suffering… and sin. They both have many names, like anguish and rebellion… grief and wickedness… but whatever it is we call them, today they’re simply unavoidable. They are of course present in our daily lives, in all sorts of guises, but today they stand out in the open. Today the Scriptures lead us with Jesus to the very foot of the cross, where these two seemingly unescapable forces are exposed in all their ugliness. A good and innocent man suffers and dies before our eyes, and all the world turns on Him… or simply turns away.
He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we… held him of no account. (Isaiah 53:3)
Don’t look away. As hard as it is… to see His awful pain, and remember our own.
As hard as it is… to see the guilt of those who killed Him, and remember our failures.
Don’t look away. Today, we are called to share in this sacred moment.
As hard as it is, we are invited to bear witness. To see.
To see that at the cross the Living God Himself does not look away. That the LORD does not ignore our suffering, standing by, unmoved. That the Holy One does not leave our injustices unanswered. That rather than leave us to fend for ourselves, Jesus, the Son of God, chose to bear the cross for us all because God refuses to look away from us… even when we could not, and cannot bear to look at Him.
For he did not despise or abhor / the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me, / but heard when I cried to him. (Psalm 22:24)
In Jesus Christ God endures all of our sin and suffering… and at the cross He draws infinitely close to us. Today we see there’s more going on than an innocent man suffering. This is more than simply a cruel tragedy… it’s the costly cure for all our transgressions. At the cross there are no cliché words of comfort… but rather we see Jesus embrace all our pain completely. At the cross there’s no brushing aside or excusing all our wickedness… but rather we see Jesus offer us all complete forgiveness.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Don’t look away from Christ at the cross, because that is where God’s love is found! God’s love which bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things… endures all things. God’s love which refused to look away… to let all our suffering and sin continue to separate us from Him any longer. God’s love poured out for us even while we were still his enemies… when our voices joined in with the crowd calling out “Crucify Him!”
Don’t look away because at the cross, as hard as it is to endure, Christ shows us the shocking depths of God’s love… just how far He has gone to redeem and rescue His sinful and suffering world. In Christ’s suffering and death at the cross God becomes Godforsaken for us… in order to rescue Godforsaken us. There’s nowhere we could go that His redeeming love can’t reach. There’s no darkness that the light of Christ at the cross cannot break through.
The Good News of Easter will remind us soon that the story, our story doesn’t end here. That the darkness of this day gives way to a glorious new dawn. But today… the Good News of the cross of Christ is that the Son of God has come to us suffering sinners… and has died to set us free. To take our place. To bear our shame. To give up His life to save ours. Precisely at the point where we deserved it the least… precisely at the point when we needed it the most.
It is precisely at the cross Christ shares God’s love with us, and it is also precisely where we see God’s love for our neighbours as well. For if God has loved us so completely, what’s stopping us from loving each other?
We cannot look away from the cross because that is where God helps us to see the suffering and sins, of ourselves… and also our neighbours… but instead of looking away from them in despair or disgust, we are empowered to see them with the eyes of God’s holy love. We cannot look away from the cross, because that is where God reminds us that the way forward for all of us comes only through forgiveness. We cannot look away from Jesus Christ on the cross, because that is where God opens our eyes to His longsuffering, reconciling love… and that is where Christ opens up the way for us all to find New Life in Him.
So today, let us look in faith to Jesus at the cross. And find in Him forgiveness, life, and God's longsuffering love. Amen.