This coming week is filled with celebration for those who believe in the God of Israel. It is the week of Passover and it is the week of the Messiah’s Passion. Christian and Jewish communities will gather to remember and to celebrate—yet the foundation of both observances is rooted and grounded in great sorrow and suffering. This has always been true whenever God delivers His people. No pain, no gain.
The backdrop to the story of Passover is Moses’ encounter with God on the back side of the desert.” The most dramatic aspects of this amazing story may be the burning bush or the mysterious announcement of the ineffable name of God, “I Am that I Am.” But for me, what stands out and is twice repeated is God’s statement: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7). This encounter is the beginning of the deliverance we now celebrate as Passover.
I have seen, I have heard, and I know—so I have come down. What an amazing story to the grace and the power of God! He knows our sorrows. Aren’t you glad about that?
It is because God knows, sees and hears that He does indeed “come down” to deliver His people. God meets us at our greatest point of need. When we fail to realize our need, we find it easy to ignore God. Thankfully He doesn’t ignore us. He knows our sorrows even when we do not. He reaches out to us until we are forced by the circumstances of our lives to acknowledge our need, and, in our time of grief and pain, God comes down. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Complacency can make us oblivious to our own perilous plight, but when we hear God’s voice calling to us in the midst of our pain, it opens the door to great gain—to deliverance and freedom.
One Jewish commentator wrote, “It is strange that the Bible would use the expression, ‘I have come down,’ which presupposes that the Godhead needs to descend to earth to act thereon.” Yet God made a point of announcing His intention to “come down,” to get involved, to get His hands dirty so to speak—and once again, He does so because He sees, He hears and He knows. It was God Himself who brought the plagues on the Egyptians. God Himself passed over the homes of the Israelites who placed the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of their homes. God Himself brought us through the Red Sea on dry ground. God had to come down because that is His nature. He is a saving God.
And all of this foreshadowed an even greater deliverance. Isaiah predicted that ultimately God’s saving arm would bring salvation to His people through one revealed to be “a Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:1-3). Once again God proves that He has seen and He has heard. He knows our sorrows and has come down, as a man of sorrows, to deliver us. This is the wonder of the Passover and the Passion taken together. God knows our pain and He has taken it all upon Himself in the person of Yeshua haMashiach, Jesus the Messiah.
Yeshua, the consummate Passover Lamb, shed His own blood so that those of us who apply that blood to the doorposts of our hearts can pass over from death to life eternal. Yeshua’s deep pain brought us great gain. In Messiah, God finally did come down, just as He promised prior to that very first Passover deliverance. We who believe and receive what He did are redeemed.
But our redemption is not a ticket out of this world, nor will it deliver us from all pain and sorrow. If God was willing to come down, to participate in our sorrows, then it stands to reason that we who follow Him will not be exempt from suffering and sorrow. We, too, must be willing to see, to hear, to know and to come down to take part in the lives of those God loves. Just as Jesus carried His cross in the work of redemption, so He tells us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). No pain, no gain.
We cannot divorce ourselves from the suffering of this world, but even as God did, we must enter in, get our hands dirty, so to speak, and become men and women of sorrows. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it this way, “God wants us to be human beings, not ghosts who shun the world. In the whole world of history there is always only one really significant hour. If you want to find eternity you must serve the times.”
This is our time. God calls us to serve Him today, to grasp that hour of significance this very week and to dedicate whatever He calls us to do in that hour as a sacrifice to Him and for His glory. Because we follow the Man of Sorrows, we too can see and hear and know and come down. It may be with great pain, but it will always be for great gain.
Man of Sorrows! what a Name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim
Hallelujah! What a Savior.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude
In my place condemned He stood
Sealed my pardon with His blood
Hallelujah! What a Savior.
Guilty, vile and helpless we
Spotless Lamb of God was He
Full atonement! can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior
Lifted up was He to die
“It is finished!” was His cry
Now in heaven exalted high
Hallelujah! What a Savior.