Ash Wednesday meditation

Isaiah 52:12 – 53:12

Isaiah 52:12-13

As Isaiah’s hearers heard this message they must have thought: How can someone so disfigured, so broken cause kings to be silent, and nations to be sprinkled? That was a question which remained unresolved for hundreds of years until the coming of Christ. For it is Jesus who turns out to be the servant raised and lifted up and exalted. Not to a position of power. Not in a royal throne-room. But on a cross. Two pieces of wood hammered roughly together by Romans soldiers. A means of execution and a means of glorification.

Jesus said in John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. And John adds in the next verse: He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

So let us spend some time reflecting on the glory and the wonder of the cross …

Isaiah 53:1-3

Who indeed has believed our message? Where are the men and women crowding in tonight to hear the message of eternal life? Right from the very beginning Jesus did not live as a Messiah or a superhero. He grew up as a tender shoot, vulnerable, familiar with suffering, unremarkable in so many ways. In other words, He grew up as one of us.

So let us spend some time thanking God that Jesus came to share our frail, human existence …

Isaiah 53:4-6

Who are the people we admire in today’s society? The well-groomed, the rich, the powerful. People who seem never to suffer, who conquer whatever comes their way through sheer force of personality. But Jesus never embraced the cult of celebrity. He embraced the way of suffering. Not because he wanted to suffer, or enjoyed being a martyr. But because he chose to suffer in our place, to bear the punishment that we should have borne. Because whether we are a celebrity or nobody, whether we have all the power in the world or none, we have rejected the Lord and worshipped other gods.

So let us spend some time humbly and prayerfully thinking about the ways we have fallen short of God’s standards, about the sin which disfigures our lives and the punishment which so terribly disfigured Jesus …

Isaiah 53:7-9

What do we do when we see injustice? Hopefully we stand up and speak out about it. We naturally feel we need to protest, to do something, even if we’re not clear what. Yet how did Jesus react when He was sentenced to death? He knew that Pontius Pilate had declared: I find no basis for a charge against him. (John 18:38) All the accusations that had been thrown against Him had failed to stack up. Yet he remained silent. He did not protest when he was whipped and beaten by the soldiers. He did not swear at the soldiers who laid on Him a cross too heavy to bear. Because He knew there was no other way. Because only He could be the sinless, perfect lamb of God who could bear the sins of the world. The only one who could be my substitute, my sacrifice who could die in my place.

So let us spend some time reflecting on the greatness of Jesus’ love for us …

Isaiah 53:10-12

What does it mean to be justified? When we say something like, “I was justified in doing this” we usually mean we were right, that we chose the right course of action. But when we are declared just in God’s sight it is not because of our goodness, because of anything that we have done. It is Jesus became our guilt offering and now sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding on our behalf. That’s what it means when we say we have been justified. As the apostle Paul writes in 2 Cor 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So as we finish this act of meditation, let us spend some time reflecting on the awesome thought, that because of Jesus we are now right with God. OK, we still struggle with sin. We still fall short of God’s standards. But because Jesus bore our sin, we are now children in the family of God, part of the body of Christ and nothing can ever, ever break that relationship with God our Heavenly Father.

Rev Tim


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