Today’s Readings (text):
- Isaiah 52:13-53:12
- Psalm 31
- Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
- John 18:1-19:42
Today’s service (it’s not a mass, even in Roman Catholic churches) features long, long readings. Volumes are written about the Lord’s passion, which comes today from John’s gospel, and I will not add to the fire. Instead, I’d like to focus on Isaiah’s message, specifically just the first few lines of it. In today’s Old Testament lesson, he wrote:
See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him,
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man,
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.
We know many things in our lives aren’t what they appear to be. I recently began a new project in my organization, one that endeavors to help students in Illinois schools. They have lots of problems: bullying, parents who are missing in action, Facebook in the hands of an adolescent, getting proper nutrition and physical activity, and so on. And these problems don’t even scratch the surface of their issues when it comes to learning science or math.
In order to accomplish this purpose, I needed a lot of help. I hired one young woman from Baltimore whom I had met when she was working as a waitress and happened to start a conversation with me that eventually led to her working for me.
When you see her, you immediately think “waitress,” but what you can’t see is that she is working to finish her college degree and then possibly go to law school and start a practice with one of her good friends who is also planning to go through law school. After that, she doesn’t really have any plans.
When people in Jesus’ time looked at him, they saw sometimes a broken man, sometimes a teacher. But what they didn’t know — and which took us a while to figure out — is that he would lead them to salvation. In fact, he was their salvation. His actions on the cross, much more than his words, led our Father in heaven to forgive our sins.
Now we know what happened on the day Jesus died. Entire universities have been established for that purpose alone. Kingdoms have been built and fallen in his name and his name alone.
I appreciate his great and perfect sacrifice, and I live the rest of my life trying to find ways to give thanks to him for what he did. But we need to consider our lives today, and this is the real meaning of faith. Even people who are evil think Jesus died to save them from their sins. Simply believing that something happened isn’t faith.
Rather, faith is being at ease, at peace, with the understanding that things are going to work out just fine. It’s very difficult to let your thoughts be at ease with that concept sometimes. For example, I am often uncomfortable with some of the times I have been disappointed at work. I find myself ready to just call the whole thing off and cut my losses.
But knowing that there is prosperity ahead in terms of the organization’s goals (and in terms of my personal goals and my employees’ personal goals) keeps me going. Business isn’t a one-time act like Jesus’ dying on the cross, but it’s rather a commitment to an ongoing partnership. Kids’ suffering is so complex that doing one thing only isn’t going to make much of a difference. And to keep coming back, revising the plan, and trying new and improved strategies takes faith.
It’s a faith that people are exactly who they say they are, despite what you might see as evidence to the contrary, and even if they don’t actually “say” who they are; a faith that people’s motives really are pure, despite any signs that there is deceit afoot; and a faith that they will do what they say they’re going to do, despite any disappointments along the way.
This is Christian faith, direct from Christ himself. It may not look very good on the surface, but after a while, you’ll understand what really happened.