From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Four, Day Two
Like most of us, Jesus' disciples were sometimes caught up with a sense of their own self-importance, at times even arguing with each other about which of them was greatest. Jesus startled them by reversing the natural order in which it is the weak who serve the strong. He assured them, instead, that he came not in order to control and dominate but in order to serve.
Though prophets, judges, and kings were called servants of God in the Bible, Jesus is the greatest of all God's servants, the Man of Sorrows who laid down his life in obedience to his Father. He is the Servant who through his suffering has saved us. When you pray to Jesus as Servant or as the Man of Sorrows, you are praying to the Lord who has loved you in the most passionate way possible, allowing himself to be nailed to a cross in order that you might have life and have it to the full.
He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. Isaiah 53:3, NLT
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Matthew 20:28
Praying the Name
See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. . . . My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! Isaiah 52:13; 53:2 - 5, NLT
Reflect On: Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12.
Praise God: For raising up his Son, Jesus.
Offer Thanks: For Christ's long-suffering love.
Confess: Any pride that keeps you from receiving the forgiveness Jesus offers.
Ask God: To help you look into the face of Christ on the cross.
I will never forget the profound silence that characterized the crowd as we streamed out of the theater after viewing The Passion of the Christ. For 126 minutes we had been painfully transfixed by Mel Gibson's graphic depiction of the last twelve hours of the life of Christ. It left us speechless. What words could we summon to defend ourselves? How could we explain the mitigating circumstances that made us not responsible for everything that had happened to Jesus? Words do not exist for such a task, and so we shuffled out in grim silence. It felt as though the wretchedness of the whole human race had been glaringly exposed. Our condition was far worse than I had imagined. How else to explain the magnitude of God's suffering?
John Calvin believed that human beings cannot attain true selfknowledge without first contemplating the face of God. He compared our distorted self-perception to an eye that has only been exposed to the color black. When that eye is exposed to a lighter color, even something with a brownish hue, it may mistake it for white because it doesn't have a clue about what white looks like. In other words, we are misshapen human beings surrounded by other misshapen human beings. Some of us may look good compared to others but we are still deeply flawed compared to God and to the kind of person he means us to become.
Jack Roeda, a pastor and professor of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary, comments on John's Gospel, saying: John wants us to look on the face of Jesus until the conviction becomes rooted in our hearts that we are looking into the human face of the living God. Perhaps this face of God comes most into focus when it wears the crown of thorns. As Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, "It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one can see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is his splendor."
I think Wolterstorff is right. God's sorrow is his splendor. His goodness, standing as it does in contrast to our sinfulness, enables him to see with absolute clarity how far human beings have fallen. His sorrow is a gauge of his love, because it expresses what he was willing to endure, in the person of his Son, in order to heal our wretchedness. Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, reveals the splendor of God's face to us.
Dorothy Ranaghan writes about the difficulty of facing God when we know we have done wrong:
Averting the eyes because I am not worthy to look upon the face of God and live is one kind of response. But to run away internally or, worse, to cease praying for a period of time because I only want to see the Lord smiling at me is self-centered. The only corrective is to look upon the bloody, agonized face of Christ crucified and accept in those eyes of pain neither disgust nor approval, but only salvation and love beyond comprehension.
Jesus came to show us God's face. At times it is a face consumed by sorrow. Pray today for the grace to gaze on Jesus, seeing not only what he has suffered but why. Then praise him for his salvation and his love beyond comprehension.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com. Be sure to check out Ann's newest book, Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness.