Servanthood, suffering, sacrifice – these are the things we see magnified in this last week of Jesus’s life. They were things prophesied by Isaiah many years beforehand: Isaiah said of the Suffering Servant, ‘He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.’ (Is 53:3) In that very famous prophecy, we read,

‘Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
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.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.’ (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Jesus experienced suffering and became that perfect sacrifice precisely because of our sin. It was our pain He took upon Himself; He bore our suffering. Because of His suffering and sacrifice, we can know peace; we can be healed. Because Jesus chose the way of servanthood, we can be set free; we can be saved. There’s nothing more we can do but believe and rely on the cross: as Paul said, ‘may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Gal 6:14)

And yet, Good Friday is not the end of the story. There is resurrection ahead. Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming. Blessing and reward lie ahead; the way of the cross is not our final destination. Make no mistake, though: blessing and reward can only be reached as we choose the Jesus way of servanthood, suffering and sacrifice. Paul wanted to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, but that is only available through ‘participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.’ (Phil 3:10-11) Jesus our Saviour has blazed the way, but He did this by hanging on a cross. ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.’ (1 Pet 3:18) May we embrace the way of the cross and be made alive in the Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.