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“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6)
Soon after the Holocaust, an East German pastor by the name of Guenter Rutenborn wrote a play called The Sign of Jonah, in his attempt to make sense of all the horror had transpired in his country. In his play, a group of German people attempt to come to terms with the atrocities that had been committed on their soil, asking who was to blame for the Holocaust. Some blamed Hitler. Others blamed the munitions manufacturers. Still more blamed the German people in their apathy. Finally, the people realized that above all the others, that God was to blame. After all, God had created this world. God had placed all of this power in such unworthy hands. And God had for some unknown reason allowed all of these tragedies to happen.
As the group of people come to this conclusion, God’s punishment is considered, and this sentence is pronounced:
“Let Him become a man; let Him become a Jew; let Him see how it really is; let Him feel the leprous wounds; let Him smell our human stench; finally, let Him be falsely accused; let Him be without help, without supporting friends; and let Him die like that, forsaken by all. He himself shall die! Let Him lose a son, and suffer the agonies of fatherhood. And when at last He dies, He shall be disgraced and ridiculed. THEN HE WILL KNOW.”
As you listen to the sentence, you can’t help but realize: God has already served his sentence. Even though God is not guilty, He has lived out every part of that sentence. He has taken on flesh and walked our earth. He has lived as a Jew. He was despised, rejected, falsely accused, forsaken, and murdered. God knows what it is like to have a child killed. Even though God is not guilty, He has experienced the worst agonies of mankind.
Our lives, and our world, are marked by suffering. In our suffering, we often look for someone to blame. At times, we blame ourselves; at other times, we blame others: parents, spouse, boss, government, etc. And sometimes, like the people in Rutenborn’s play, we blame God. The story of the Bible is a testimony to the reality that our God is not a far-off God, but a God who suffered not only alongside of us but ultimately in our place, so that one day we would suffer no more, but live forever in a place where there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). Thanks be to God for His amazing – and costly – redeeming love.
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