Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 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. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.Isaiah 53
God offends all of us. To take this message as wholehearted truth — that God willingly died for us so we can be whole again — means we have to accept uncomfortable parts existing together. That we have wronged/wrong God. That God dwelled/dwells among us. That God willingly gave themselves up for us by enduring unjustifiable capital punishment. That we are why God had to die.
If I try to make sense of every detail in this story, my mind will explode. Maybe God’s ways cannot be contained by my human rationale. If I try to convince all of me to believe that Jesus literally died on the cross after being tortured in front of the people who said loved him, my body freezes up and my stomach churns. Maybe the depths of this pain and sorrow are too much for my already fragile body to accept, when I can look out my window and in the news the countless deaths that are taken unjustly. If I really believe that I am the reason why God had to die, I am stopped at my tracks. But not because of guilt. God died to demonstrate their love for me. God gives themselves up so I know I am not important. I want my being to understand the gravity of this infinite love.
I condemn torture and capital punishment, and I believe the Word of God does as well. It has been weaponized to destroy too many innocent lives, especially black lives, especially people of color and those deemed inferior under white supremacy and colonialism. To have God endure such physical and visceral pain is one way God demonstrates they know our pain. They have been through it as well. They have accepted it. They have been put on the witness stand to be stripped, whipped, defamed and crucified. God knows the pain of having their dignity stripped. God wears those scars on their body.
I choose to believe that God did walk on this earth and continues to dwell among us, and in us. I choose to believe this because I need to know that I am not alone. I need to know that there is not one thing I have or will go through that God cannot resonate with. I need to know that God is with us and for us. My clearest sense of this truth is with the story of Jesus. Jesus lived and grew up among us. Jesus was a poor refugee who had a day job as a carpenter. Jesus was a good friend. Jesus lived with purpose. Jesus loved the people society pushed aside. Jesus spoke most against greed and religiosity. Jesus was here to break the systemic structures that held a small group of people up and most people down. Jesus never forgot the goal and the why for existence. Jesus gave up everything for humans to experience God’s love and nearness. On Good Friday, Jesus said we are good enough, we are worthy, we are the goal. On Good Friday, Jesus was good, willing and vulnerable. On Good Friday, I remember that the depths of love are deeper and more unfathomable than what I could ever humanly imagine.