The Man of Sorrows

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3

When I was a child, I went to a school that was considered quite posh. Not posh by Eton or Harrow standards, but still posh enough. At my school, the pupils liked to jostle each other about who was better. How much money our parents had, or how smart our parents’ cars were, or what their personalised number plates were seemed to be a big issue. Interestingly, it tended to be those with the most to prove who participated more forcefully in these discussions – the ones whose parents were not actually all that rich, but had scrimped and saved to send them to independent school. They were the ones who seemed most intent on proving their worth, and undermining the worth of others.

School children can be funny creatures!

In today’s reading, we have a direct prophecy of Jesus, the messiah. This prophecy would have shocked and surprised many Jewish people who were expecting the messiah to be a triumphant leader, and an incredible king who would save God’s people. That is certainly not the picture of the messiah we see here, though. Here, we see a man who is despised and rejected, a sad man who has experienced sadness and suffering to the full. This man will not be held in high esteem by anyone.

This prophecy is, of course, startlingly accurate. Jesus was not born into a privileged family; his mother was an unmarried teenager, whose boyfriend, and later husband, was a carpenter. Jesus was born not in a grand palace, but in a cold and dirty stable, surrounded by animals. Jesus experienced plenty of sorrow in his life, ranging from the death of close friends to rejection by those who should have known better. He was certainly familiar with suffering – he was executed in the most cruel way the Romans had devised.

Of course, it’s easy to read this, and think about how poorly Jesus was treated, and reason that we would have been better. But can we really say that? One of the hymns that I find most moving is called, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.” It has the words:

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon his shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.

Would we really have been any different to the people shouting for Jesus to be crucified? Would we really not have rejected Christ? Would we really not have followed the crowd? It’s a pretty unpleasant thought.

Of course, we may still be in that crowd of scoffers. Do we really give Jesus the respect that he deserves? After all, he died for us! Or do we reject him on a daily basis by ignoring his pattern for living, and continuing to do things our own way? Do we really honour Christ with our thoughts, our words and our deeds?

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