Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
The first Holy Saturday experience for Jesus’ followers was colored in dark tones and painted with despair. After witnessing Jesus’ death on the cross and burial in stone, His followers were left without their teacher, their healer or their hope.
They were without the One who spoke words of eternal life. Without the One who turned their lives right-side up. Without the One they intended to follow the rest of their lives.
A deafening “without” echoed on that mournful Saturday.
Before Jesus was crucified, He had warned His disciples this would happen.
“I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. … But the time is coming — indeed it’s here now — when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:19-23; 32-33, NLT).
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold what the suffering servant, Jesus, would experience. Jesus knew His followers would flee and He’d be left alone. Jesus also knew that as He bore the wrath of God on our behalf, His death would separate Him from the Father. Jesus would experience an incomprehensible darkness and the deafening silence of God.
If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced dark moments when you’ve felt alone. When the power of death felt present in your life. When you’ve been without. Easter Saturday, and the words of Isaiah, remind us that Jesus, too, experienced what we do. Easter Saturday also reminds us of God’s power to turn “without” into “with.”
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminds them of the death they once knew — full of overwhelming passions, unsatisfying desires and destructive cravings. These are dark sentences ending in wrath. But Paul tells them that in the face of this darkness and despair, God made them alive with Christ.
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil — the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:1-5, NLT).
How did God do this for them? How does He do it for you?
Instead of leaving you alone in your darkness and despair, He enters into that pain to be with you. The cross on Friday and the grave on Saturday were the lengths to which God was willing to go to take your sin and death upon Himself.
He came to be with you in your darkness so you can be with Him in His life. By His grace, you do not have to remain in this Saturday despair, but you can live with Him in His new Sunday life.
The good news of the Easter story is that God made the way for you to be alive with Christ.
If you’re like me, the word “with” has never sounded so good.
How are you experiencing the darkness and death of Saturday in your life right now?
What would it look like to ask Jesus to be with you in those dark places so you can experience life with Him?
Jesus, the darkness feels heavy. Though at times You seem silent, You have promised to be with those who put their trust in You. You have not left me alone. Thank You that You know what the darkness feels like and You’ve experienced life as a human. You can empathize with me. Jesus, give me the faith to believe that You are near, even when I can’t sense Your presence.
What does the Old Testament prophecy mean for me today? Learn more about Isaiah 53 and how Jesus relates to our suffering world.
Why does God allow suffering? Explore more here.
How do I face depression as a Christian? To the depressed Christian, you’re not alone. Learn more here.
Josh Irby has been on staff with Cru® for the past 23 years and now serves as City Global Partnership Director for Europe. He is married with five kids and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Josh also co-hosts the Mission Shift podcast, available at cru.org/missionshift or wherever you listen to podcasts.
As a follower of Jesus, you can have confidence through His resurrection that your sins are forgiven. Everything Jesus promised in His teachings you can trust to be true. You are a child of God, and you will live forever with Him.
Reflect with us on what Jesus endured and why He died.
Jesus not only endured abandonment and denial from some of His closest followers, but faced both emotional and physical torment while bearing the weight of God’s justice. Jesus intervened for you on the cross.
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