The Suffering Servant: Advent Devotional, Week 2

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Read Psalm 22

One of the most memorable events of my life was seeing my grandfather, a person I respected greatly, enter into a battle with cancer at the end of his life. While he retained great dignity to the end, his body became worn out and drawn thin. When we see people of strength in our lives go through times of suffering, it is a difficult thing to watch.

Of all the psalms connected with Jesus, perhaps the most penetrating is Psalm 22. This psalm of anguish and suffering serves as a backdrop for Jesus’ crucifixion, the first phrases leaping from His lips while He hangs affixed to that tortuous wood. There is a wonder here because the chosen one, anointed by God and by His Spirit, now enters into the suffering of humanity. He endures both the suffering humanity deserves and the suffering humanity inflicts. The intensity of the cup of suffering that Jesus drinks at the Cross finds expression in the strong words of this psalm.

It is ironic that the political and religious leaders who gather around to watch Jesus’ crucifixion mock Him as He suffers. “They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One’” (Luke 23:35). They seem to delight in the suffering of this supposed Messiah, even as Jesus’ followers hide away in fear or lurk nearby in anguish. This is ironic because even as they mock, the Jewish belief structure of Jesus’ time earnestly anticipated a messiah figure to relieve their suffering under the oppression of the Roman regime. As happens to all of us, they failed to see that what they most need is right in front of them.

Advent may seem like an odd time to focus on Psalm 22. The theme and words seem more like a Good Friday portion of Scripture. Yet the anticipation of Advent calls us to a watchful attention of the way that God works. Even before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan to reveal His glory in Christ and to bring us back to Him through the suffering of Jesus. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).

As we continue our Advent journey, may the suffering of Jesus the Messiah, described in Psalm 22, give us hope that God has come to rescue us. And may we meet that hope with faith as we live for God and wait for Christ’s return. R

REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT:

  1. “The Lord works in mysterious ways” is a phrase we often hear. In what way was the arrival and suffering of Jesus a mysterious path of God? And in what way would you say it all made sense?
  2. As you reflect on the birth stories of Jesus from the Gospels, where do you see His purpose and suffering anticipated? What is your reaction to God’s long-planned and perfectly-executed plan for our salvation?

FAMILY TALK WEEK 2

INTENDED FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

When park rangers rescue someone from a mountaintop or deep in a canyon, they have to do a short-haul rescue operation. This means that they y a helicopter as close as possible to the rescue site, then one ranger straps on a harness and is let out of the helicopter on a cable. The ranger dangles over the rescue site and eventually lands near the person to be rescued. The ranger links his harness to the stranded person, and together they are pulled back toward the helicopter where they can be safe.

Short-haul rescues are really dangerous! Park rangers who do them know that they are risking their own lives to save someone else’s.

This is exactly what Jesus did—but so much more! Jesus did lay down His life in order to save us. This is the whole point of the Savior Song in Psalm 22. Even though it was written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth, this psalm gives clues about Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. It tells us that Jesus would feel all alone (verse 1-2), that He would be made fun of (verses 6-8), that His body would be weak and broken (verses 14-17) and it even tells us that soldiers would play games for His cloak (verse 18). It’s a sad picture!

But, it’s also a hopeful picture. Jesus loved us enough to rescue us—to take the punishment for our sins! Like the short-haul rescuer, he links Himself to us and brings us to safety! We know that Jesus rose again, and those of us who trust Him, will rise to live forever with Him!

[This is part of the Eastbrook Church 2019 Advent devotional, “Songs of the Savior.”]

A Hero Who Rescues from Inevitable Impact

For her fifty-fourth birthday, Shirley Dygert of Teague, Texas, decided she could use a little more excitement in her life. So this grandmother of three decided to sign up to sky-dive, leaping out of a plane from roughly thirteen-thousand feet.

When the big day arrived, Shirley suited up for her jump and was strapped on to her instructor, Dave Hartsock, in order to do a tandem dive. But what happened next was a little more excitement than Shirley had planned…and a whole lot of fear.

Dygert and Hartsock leapt out of the plane and, when they reached the altitude for their parachute to be released, they pulled the rip cord. The parachute opened but only partially, becoming tangled as it released. Thankfully, as every good sky-diver knows, you always need to have a reserve parachute in case something like this happens. However, the problem that Shirley Dygert and Dave Hartsock faced was that the primary chute had become tangled near the release point of the reserve parachute.

As Hartsock frantically attempted to untangle the primary parachute from the release point of the reserve parachute it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to accomplish this goal. So, with time running down, he pulled the rip cord on the reserve chute only to see that, just as he expected, the reserve parachute tangled up with the primary chute as it released, unable to open completely.

At this moment, Dygert recalls, “I thought…this is how I’m going to die. I thought, God help us”

Spiraling toward the ground, Dave Hartsock tried to do all he could to untangle the parachutes and save their lives. But their hopes were thin, and time was slipping away.

So, at 40 mph and 500 feet from the ground, Dave Hartsock told Shirley Dygert to do something she didn’t entirely understand: lift up her feet. Unsure of how this would help with the impact, she did what he said. Then Hartsock pulled down the control toggles in order to rotate their position so that his body was under hers to bear the impact. Dave Hartsock was going to be Shirley Dygert’s cushion.

“I can’t hardly believe it,” Dygert said, “he broke my fall.”

Shirley Dygert walked away from the impact relatively uninjured.  But Dave Hartsock, although he didn’t die, is now paralyzed with just a little movement in his right arm.

As they were hurtling to the ground, Shirley Dygert needed a hero to save her.

That’s not to unlike our situation in life. We are inevitably hurtling toward the end of our lives where we will face judgment before the righteous Judge. That will happen, Paul writes, “on the day when God judges everyone’s secrets through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).

On our own, we are facing destruction. But there is One – Jesus our Savior – who, as it were, places Himself between us and the impending end. He becomes the cushion for us. He is our rescuing Hero.

Paul writes about that in this way: “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

[This was taken from my message from this past Sunday, “Lost and Found.”]

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Sources:

Steve Hartman, CBS News – Assignment America. “Heroic Skydiving Instructor Saves Life.” May 10, 2010. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/10/assignment_america/main6471254.shtml Accessed: October 30, 2010.

The Telegraph. “Hero skydiver paralysed ‘by saving parachute woman in freefall’”.  June 2, 2010. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7795617/Hero-skydiver-paralysed-by-saving-parachute-woman-in-freefall.html Accessed: October 30, 2010.