Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 16-17 (11): The Agony of the Cross - Scene 1b (27-30)

(enjoy this over the next two days)

Scene 1 continued  - "The redemptive sacrifice, the scourging and the agony on the cross"

27. Accompanied recitative (Tenor)

All they that see Him laugh him to scorn: they shoot out their lips, they shake their heads, saying, (Psalm 22:7, Book of Common Prayer)

28. Turba chorus

He trusted in God that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, if He delight in Him. (Psalm 22:8; Matthew 27:43)

29. Accompanied recitative (Tenor)

Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man; neither found He any to comfort Him. (Psalm 69:20, Book of Common Prayer)

30. Arioso (Tenor)

Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow. (Lamentations 1:12)

(Note: Jennens changed from the first person in the Scriptures to the third person for purposes of continuity in Messiah.) 


Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:43

This is a psalm of David. We do not know what event in his life it is linked to, but he felt forsaken by God as he was surrounded by enemies who persecuted him. David was never near execution, but this is what this psalm describes. 

Most commentators agree that it is a prophetic psalm about the crucifixion of Jesus. David described the suffering of the Messiah that would occur almost 1,000 years later! Jesus quotes from this psalm at the cross. 

Note the similarities between this psalm and events in Jesus' life:

22:6-8/Matthew 27:39, 42-44 - People mocked and scorned Jesus at the cross 
22:15/John 19:28 - Jesus thirsted on the cross 
22:16/Luke 24:39-40 - Jesus' hands and feet were nailed to the cross 
22:17-18/Matthew 27:35 - They divided up Jesus' garments by casting lots 
22:22/Hebrews 2:12 - Jesus will declare God's name  
22:27 - All the earth will remember, turn, and bow down to the LORD, and He will rule the nations through Jesus!
Psalm 69:20 

Psalm 69 is also a psalm of David and is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament behind Psalm 22 and 110. Many verses are applied to the ministry and suffering of Jesus:
69:4/John 15:25 - Jesus' enemies 
69:8/John 7:5 - Jesus scorned by his brothers 
69:9/John 2:14-17 - Christ's zeal when he threw out the money changers at the temple 
69:20/John 19:28-30 - Christ's suffering 
69:25/Acts 1:20 - Judas
Jesus was the perfect example of a righteous person who was persecuted for being zealous for the will of God. For clarification, the "rebuke" in 69:20 is the rebuke of the people taunting Him on the cross and not the rebuke of the Lord. 

Lamentations 1

Jeremiah turned his feelings about the fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.) into poetic form. The book is written in the style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. Lamentation 1 is the first of five poems (or dirges) that correspond to the five chapters. 

In its historical context, Lamentation 1:12 is Jerusalem calling out to people passing by to notice her terrible condition, but it is also a prophecy of Christ. Those passing by were hurling abuse at Christ (Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29). 


The oratorio leaves the first line of Lamentations 1:12 out, but it is a question we can all ask ourselves:

Is it nothing to all you who pass this way?

And I ask you today, what is the Cross to you? Lamentation 1:12 is a plea for us today to not merely "pass by" but to stop and ponder the power of the Cross.  The Hebrew words "behold and see" mean "to look, to watch, to regard. It has the sense of looking somewhat intensely in a focused way at something" and "requires the individual to see physically outside of himself or herself: to see so that one can learn" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, p. 700, 1023). 

Is it nothing to you? What can you learn from the Cross today?

I realize that this is not the cheeriest of sections of Messiah. It is often hard to get through this dark time in the Messiah oratorio. Think about the words in the verses: scourging, scorn, shoot (lips), shake (heads), and sorrow.

The Cross was not a pretty picture. Have you found yourself restless to get out of the darkness? I encourage you to stay there just a bit longer. There is something very powerful about truly facing the Cross directly. So I encourage you to go there, and I am confident that Jesus will meet you in the midst of it.

I heartily recommend practicing the Loyola Method of meditation that is explained below. Try to place yourself as a witness of the crucifixion, and maybe even put yourself in the shoes of the scorners. What doubts about the goodness of God lie buried there? Then, try to take the perspective of Jesus looking down upon them. 

(Download the handout with The Loyola Method and other tools for meditation HERE.) 

Do not despair. Hold on for the "Hallelujah Chorus"! It is right around the corner. It is always darkest before the dawn. 

Get Totally Involved -The Loyola Method

(Note: Here’s an approach to meditation adapted from the “Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius Loyola. He was a spiritual director in the 16th century. The Loyola Method works better when you have a passage that involves a narrative story.)

PART ONE (Preparation)

a. In prayer, ask God for grace to direct your thoughts, words, and actions to service and praise of his Divine Majesty.

b. Read the passage upon which you intend to meditate. Read unhurriedly, but without attempting yet to meditate on the passage. Your goal now is simply to familiarize yourself with the passage.

c. Determine an objective for your meditation time and ask God to help you accomplish it. If the passage you choose, for example, is the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:1–7, your objective may be a sense of awe and humility as you contemplate the mystery of-your Savior’s entry into the world.

Usually this preliminary request is formulated in terms of some emotion you wish God to give you as a result of your meditation. Ignatius Loyola believed that the ultimate purpose of meditation is application (that is, an act of the will), and that the will is motivated primarily by emotion rather than reason.

PART TWO (Meditation)

a. Visualize the scene. In the case of Luke 2:1–7, see in your mind the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Is it level, or does it wind through valleys and around hillsides? See Mary, in her ninth month of pregnancy, riding on a donkey, accompanied by Joseph who is perhaps leading an ox. They are going to Bethlehem to pay a tax. What kind of people are they passing on the way? Soldiers? Peasants? Merchants? Other families?
Study in your imagination the place of the Nativity. Is it spacious or cramped? Clean or dirty? Warm or cold? How is it furnished?

b. Assume the role of one of the characters in the passage, or of someone else who might be present. In Luke 2, for example, you could be the hotel’s servant or maid.

c. Now apply your five senses to the scene. Look carefully, watching all the action. Use your ears as you listen in on conversations. Apply your senses of smell and touch. What odors are present? What quality of garments are being worn? Feel the woodwork of the manger. Smell and feel the straw. Apply your sense of taste—is there anything there to eat?

d. Analyze your own feelings as a member of the scene. How do you feel about what is happening? How do you feel about the persons involved? How do you feel about yourself?

PART THREE (Conversation)

Talk to Joseph, or Mary, or someone else in the scene. Talk to them about the thoughts that have come to your mind as you have meditated on this passage. Talk to God or to the Lord Jesus.
          This conversation should in most cases lead to some form of action or personal application. 
Discipleship Journal, Issue 6 (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress).
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