By David Guretzki
“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” Isaiah 53:5
Suffering, and the avoidance of suffering, is on the minds of the world this week. It’s as if the world has banded together to bear with the sufferings of others who are enduring or have already succumbed to COVID-19.
It is also the week in the Christian year when worshippers recall, with gratitude, the history-altering events when God in the flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, bore our sins. “He became sin who knew no sin,” the apostle declares, “that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Unlike the present situation, where no one can stand in for another who might be facing illness or even walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we stand in wonder. Jesus has not only gone through that valley before us, but He did it for us and for our eternal healing and salvation.
We praise you, Father, that you have given of yourself in your Son Jesus, that in Him, who bore our sins in His own body, we might be healed. We thank you for the Spirit of peace that was upon Jesus can now also be ours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
David Guretzki is the EFC’s executive vice-president and resident theologian.
By Aileen Van Ginkel
“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).
In difficult times, the Psalms can provide words to our prayers that capture where we’re at psychologically. They also help us express our faith in God’s faithfulness. In almost every psalm that contains lament or impatience – “How long, O LORD?” – we reaffirm our assurance of God’s “unfailing love” and recognize that “The LORD has heard my plea” (6:3, 4, 9).
Some commentators suggest that, when Jesus exclaimed the first words of Psalm 22 from the cross, He was signalling in shorthand the rhythm of suffering and faith demonstrated in the entire psalm. He was living out many of the verses that point to horrific punishment, especially “They have pierced my hands and feet” (16). Could it be that he was also pointing to verses like “[The LORD] has not ignored the suffering of the needy ... He has listened to their cries for help” (24)?
On Good Friday, we are invited to enter deeply into the suffering voiced in Psalm 22. Living in Easter hope we know at the same time that God “has not turned and walked away” (24).
Our hearts are deeply troubled by the suffering of many in the world today. Loving God, remind us that you heard the cries of your Son and you hear ours also.
Aileen Van Ginkel is the EFC’s vice-president, ministry services.
By Rick Hiemstra
“Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” Luke 23:56.
The Crucifixion brought every disciple-ish thing the disciples were doing to a grinding halt. Two days earlier, Peter had drawn his sword to fight for Jesus. He was a warrior-disciple then. What was he now?
Can you be a disciple without someone to follow or fight for?
The disciples did not know they were waiting. They thought it was the end. The last bit of discipleship they thought open to them, embalming Jesus, was prevented by the Sabbath rules. So, they waited to do their wrap-up work, not imagining the work being undertaken by Jesus.
Many of us are doing a lot of waiting during this COVID-19 crisis. We don’t know how it will end.
Right now, the future is dark and uncertain. We will all wait. Some will wait in anxiety.
Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” This is why we can wait well.
Lord Jesus, You and the Father are always working. I choose to rest in this knowing that, by faith, I too have a share in your work. Jesus, your work is bigger than what I imagine I should be busy with. Keep me from being distracted from the clarity of your Word and my experience of your faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Rick Hiemstra is director of research and media relations at the EFC.
By Bruce J. Clemenger
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, a company of women went to Jesus’ tomb to care for His body. The stone was rolled away. The body gone. Two angels clothed as bright as lightening appeared. Said one: “Why do you look for living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen!” (paraphrased from Luke 24:1-6a NIV)
He is risen indeed! This glorious world-changing message given first to these women is also given to us all and reverberates throughout all creation: He is Risen!
Believing in the resurrection makes redemption and transformation possible for all; we become God’s children and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:15-17). Sin and death’s curse are broken. Disease, exploitation and suffering do not have the final say. The Kingdom of God prevails – light over darkness. What comfort! The promise of reconciling all things to Christ the Victor is secure (Colossians 1:15-20).
That He is risen has consequences for all creation and personally for each one who confesses this truth. We anticipate with certainty a time when, “Love and faithfulness meet together, righteousness and peace are fastened together” (Psalm 85:10). Eternally and in our daily lives we live and fulfill our callings to glorify God. We trust in our Saviour, Redeemer, Friend.
Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, may the fullness of Your resurrection permeate our lives and relationships. May we be patient and joyful as you transform us – glorifying You in all things.
Bruce J. Clemenger is president of the EFC.