November 6, 2017 • Life for Leaders
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
The Servant of God in Isaiah is a “man of suffering” (53:3). The Hebrew phrase (’ish makh’ovot) means, literally, “man of pains,” and refers to both physical and emotional suffering. God’s Servant would not be immune from difficulties. In fact, he would be “familiar with pain” (53:3).
Jesus is this man of sorrows. In his full humanity, he suffered the pains of this life. Some of these pains were ordinary. I expect that, like most carpenters, Jesus sometimes hit his thumb with a hammer. Moreover, it’s most likely that he experienced the death of his earthly father, Joseph, since Joseph is absent from the gospels. Jesus also knew the emotional pain of rejection, since the very people he came to save denied him. Most of all, Jesus experienced the suffering of the cross, feeling unbearable physical pain as well as the emotional and spiritual pain of being forsaken by his Heavenly Father.
When we hurt, we find comfort in the fact that Jesus is a man of sorrows. He knows what it’s like to feel as we do. Thus his empathy isn’t theoretical. God the Son knows and shares in our suffering. He is with us, even when we are overcome by grief and despair. In time, he will deliver us from the pains of this world. In the meanwhile, our hearts are encouraged by the knowledge that Jesus is with us, that he understands, that he feels with us.
I believe this is true when it comes to the struggles and challenges of our work. Unfortunately, we know very little about Jesus’s actual life as a craftsman (traditionally, a carpenter). But we can surmise that he experienced many of the things small business owners do: unfair client expectations, miscommunication with suppliers, late shipments, the possibility of not enough work, the challenge of too much work all at once, and so forth. Therefore, when you’re experiencing the pains of working in a fallen world, remember that Jesus understands, and that he came to restore the world that is often filled with frustration and suffering.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you have suffered in your life, how have you sensed the presence of God?
What helps you to know that God is with you even in hard times?
What does it mean for you that Jesus is the Servant of God, a man of sorrows?
When you are going through hard times in your work, would it make a difference to you to think that Jesus might have experienced something similar in his work?
Lord Jesus, how we thank you for being a man of sorrows. Thank you for becoming human, for experiencing life as we experience it (though you were without sin). Thank you for knowing what physical pain feels like, what loss feels like, what rejection feels like. We find it easy to turn to you in our pain because we know that you understand.
Thank you, our Savior, for choosing the way of the cross, the way of great sorrows. You took the sin that was ours, experiencing the separation from the Father that belonged to us. How we praise you, dear Lord, for being not just a man of sorrows in general, but the man of our sorrows.
Today, we pray for those in our life who are in the midst of sorrows. Relieve their suffering, Lord. May they know your presence and find hope and comfort in you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Did Jesus Forget About Peace on Earth and Turning the Other Cheek?
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.