Getting his hands dirty
Isaiah 53: 1-6
Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
2-6 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus looked like?
Pictures in our bibles suggest he was good looking – with a beard and intense expression. Painters from early Christian monks to present day artists like Peter Howson, have shown us what they think he looked like. Usually they paint him looking handsome, often gentle and welcoming, sometimes looking brave and stoical, occasionally obviously in pain and very occasionally in agony. They never paint him with a harelip, or a squint nose or squint eye, or a beard with bald patches, or a deformed back or hand or foot... so why is it important that in 53:1-4 the prophet Isaiah is describing God’s Servant (and for many of us this prophecy is about Jesus) as “a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field... with nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.”*
And not only is he telling us God’s Servant is lacking in the good looks department, maybe even ugly to look at, he is also telling us that “he was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered and knew pain at firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum.” *
Ugly, marginalised, treated with contempt –why?
Isaiah made it clear that Jesus came because God loves the world – he came not just to those looking for God’s help and longing to live a good life; he also came to speak to folk stuck in the depths of human experiences, and to offer everyone hope. Whoever we are, whatever we are like, whatever mess we may be in, he came to stand with us and say – “You! Are Loved! Follow Me and I will give you Life in all its fullness!”
He was ready to get his hands dirty, reaching out to draw us to God. None of what goes wrong for us is his fault. As Isaiah says “We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins on him.” * Nonetheless he is here beside us, willing us to take his hands, accept rescue and a fresh start.
* quoted from The Message. (The Bible in Contemporary Language)
For your company,
Whatever roads we wander along,
Making it possible for us to return home to you;
For your hands,
Wounded and torn yet always held out towards us,
Wanting us to take hold of them and be guided home;
For your love,
Waiting and longing for us to see that you offer us forgiveness,
And would die rather than stop loving us.
For all of this, we thank you. Amen