Wednesday of Holy Week - Jesus the 'New Deliverer'
‘I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer’
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!
We have learnt so far this week that Jesus Christ is the new prophet, embodying God’s truth and proclaiming his word; he is the new priest who brings life; connected to life is light –
He is the new light overcoming darkness. Prophet, priest, light and now, following on from each – his word, his offering, his illumination and now his deliverance: Jesus Christ is the new deliverer.
If you were listening carefully tonight, you will have found the first reading from Isaiah 50 familiar; that’s because we heard it on Palm Sunday, when Jesus was revealed as the new prophet. Now, we hear it again; Jesus is indeed the prophet calling people to repentance, but he is also the instrument of their salvation, for another function of the prophet was to mediate. Jesus is the new mediator, part of whose task was to suffer in order to bring release, to experience pain in order to bring restoration. Tonight, we hear concretely that Jesus delivers.
In the scriptures, those who took a stand for God and his truth were often subject to ridicule; what does the deliverer do? ‘I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult or spitting’. The commissioning of Jesus for the task of delivering the people from captivity will result in his suffering, his loneliness, his isolation. He will be that ‘man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.’
We’ve discovered in these last days that God ‘delivered’ his people from slavery and brought them freedom. His mission was accomplished through his servants, people like Moses and Aaron, leading the people, with God himself being their light and life.
On each occasion the liberator was persecuted, just think on the trials of Moses, and yet he trusted that God would ‘make haste to help’ him.
As the history of the people of God unfolded, we hear time and time again, of the prophets delivering the people from ignorance of false worship and the oppression of the poor. Now we hear of another who ‘sustains the weary’.
In ages past relief was literally given to the weary, those who were oppressed in slavery. Now, Isaiah speaks of another who will sustain – one who will deliver the people from their own weariness. What is the weariness now? What is the oppression to which it refers?
It is, as we are told in the letter to the Hebrews, the weariness of sin and death – which are captivities in and of themselves.
How does the new prophet, the new priest, the new light become our new deliverer? Quite simply, by letting himself be delivered up into the hands of sinners. The betrayal by Judas in the gospel reading tonight means that he who was delivered, will now begin his work of deliverance. He, the servant of times past, fulfils the task as the servant of God – what is the task? To say that ‘God is great’ – to bring about the promised salvation in his person. To face the trial of suffering whilst being innocent, so that we, with him, may be raised to the right hand of God.
Jesus, the suffering servant, the great deliverer, will, by his own suffering, his own persecution, his own life and his own witness deliver us from the things that make us weary, the things that hold us captive.
Jesus, by being delivered into the hands of sinners, becomes our deliverance – out eternal deliverance, the ancient deliverers in the past, God’s prophets, were for their time. This new deliverer, ever ancient ever new, will be the deliverer for all time. He is ever ancient, his mission, foretold in ages past, and he is ever new, his work eternal. New prophet, new priest, new light, new deliverer, and tomorrow we will see how that deliverance manifests itself, he is the new lamb ‘ever ancient, ever new’.