Anger at Easter

When I think Easter emotions, anger is usually not on the top of my list. I’d much prefer hopefulness, joyfulness, gratitude, hopefulness. And, to be certain, they are there. They are just not as prominent as anger this year. No cute memes over here. Just an honest wrestling with anger.

Part of it is the most recent shooting and my empath self having a hard time moving on with the news rotations. Part of it is where God has me personally. He is teaching me so much about his heart and how much room it has for lament and raw honesty. Most of it has to do with studying Isaiah 63.

As we approach Easter, it is natural to find ourselves in Isaiah’s prophecies of the Suffering Servant and the Promised Messiah. We stand in wonder, as we should, at the Spirit’s hints through the prophet’s words fulfilled to the smallest detail in Christ. This year, I found my soul stuck in a different prophecy that does not goes down so easily. In my ESV Bible, it is aptly subtitled “The Lord’s Day of Vengeance.”

The Crimsoned Garments

“Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’

Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?

‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples, no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked but there no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me’.” (Isaiah 63:1-5).

You won’t find that on Easter decorations or on cute banners in front of churches this Sunday. It is a picture of the wrath of God against sin.

And God’s people liked it. They longed for the Messiah to come, hoping he would deal with the nations in his wrath, imagining he would smite their enemies and establish their nation again.

They wanted God’s anger against the others. They did not understand that God was also angry with them. They wanted a conquering ruler, riding in with the blood of their enemies on his robes. They had no idea that the robes of the Ruler they would receive would be stained with his own blood, shed on their behalf.

They liked anger that stemmed from his affection for them. They could not digest anger that stemmed from his holiness and stood against his own people.

The Suffering Servant

Later in the same chapter, we hear of the God who was so attached in love to his people that he was affected and afflicted by all their afflictions.

“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9).

They had seen hints of the coming Redeemer. They had known his loving intervention and his hunger for the holiness of his people.

They had no clue the degree that he would be afflicted for them and on their behalf. Though Isaiah hinted at it, saying, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

The Two are One

Christ was the suffering servant and the crimson-stained warrior of vengeance. The angel of his presence saves us because he did not call down the legions of angels to save himself (Matthew 26:53). He carries us only because he first carried our cross. We will be lifted up with him in resurrection life only because he was lifted up on the Cross, drawing all men unto himself (John 12:32).

He enacted his own vengeance against himself on our behalf. This is the story of Easter. His anger turned against himself out of his agape affection for his enemy-people.

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