So he was despised and forsaken by men,
this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him.
Of course, context is important. We might know the beginning and end to this story. But what if someone else somehow jumped right into the middle of the story without knowing the back-story or having any knowledge of the arc of the story? What would they think of the one being treated like a bum? And what would they think of the people who were treating the one like a bum? What questions might they ask about the one and the men who were mistreating him? Why was it happening? Had the one done something wrong? What was it? Maybe if he had done something wrong then maybe he deserved to be treated badly? Or if he had done nothing wrong, why were the people not able to see the injustice? Or what if they all were mistaken about what had happened? Or what if there had been a huge misunderstanding? Or maybe there was some mistaken identity? Why not just work it all out?
To relate our faith story we must always be able to explain the context. This is something unique to our faith tradition – having a context. Our faith is not about getting spiritual power from the sun, receiving strength from the air, or somehow absorbing knowledge in our sleep. Our tradition is much about our emotion and state of heart but it is also much about what happened one time a long time ago – history. Our story necessarily involves an understanding of people, places, and events. It’s about conversations, decisions, and conflict. There is also much about healing, compassion, and reaching out in historical stories that needs to be explained. We have a pretty hard time trying to be about Jesus when we can’t tell about Jesus. It’s important to be about Jesus – of course – but we must have a reason for being who we are. And it’s because of who Jesus was and is. And we have to be able to know and tell about this if and when someone wants to know.
This piece of Bible passage is powerful, wonderful, and key to my faith. But unless I explain it to you within a much broader context, you will never be able to develop any appreciation for what I am attempting to believe and place my faith in. And you won’t have any interest, either.
If you don’t know, this short Bible passage is about Jesus. And yes, at one point in history, he was shunned and disregarded as one with some kind of horrible disease by people of his own political and ethnic tribe. Some of Jesus’ own hated him so badly that they sold him out and sent him to be murdered by an occupying army. But all through this, Jesus was calm, collected, and very gentle. He spoke of humility, forgiveness, and love. He made people feel better, he listened to some who others wouldn’t, and he was merciful with the marginalized. He tried to explain and then demonstrate that he was the Son of God. Some believed and wanted to be with him. But others, as mentioned, hated him for his apparent blasphemy and insolence and did all they could to be rid of him. Jesus also explained to those who would listen and at least try to understand that he was willing to carry their hurts, pain, and sins for them. No one really knew exactly what he meant, but as the Bible passage suggests, even in his isolation he willingly suffered through and carried the spiritual pain and hurt of those who believed in him. No man ever has or ever will do the same.
The passage alludes to “we” several times. Yes, we – you and I – are all members of sinful mankind and it was us that persecuted, prosecuted, and then slayed Jesus. We are included in the group. Does this shock you? See, the context is such that the protagonist Jesus dueled it out with the antagonist Satan – the world with us in it – to the point of Jesus dying a horrible death. But then several day later he amazingly came back from the dead. Is that a story or what? And in so doing, he demonstrated that the burden of hurt and sin that he carried in behalf of others was no more. Gone. Over. Finished.
It’s a pretty good story once you understand the whole story.
So much so that it rocks my heart and soul every time I think about it or read the words. And you?