Removing Every Tear

Man of Sorrows by Guido Reni

Isaiah 25:6–9

6 And in this mountain
The LORD of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
7 And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.

9 And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the LORD;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

Revelation 21:1–6

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

The phrase “I’m sorry for your loss” became popular several years ago and unfortunately, it stuck.  People routinely say this now without really understanding that they are actually distancing themselves from the other person.  After all, it’s your loss – not mine.  A simpler “I’m so sorry” would be better.  To bear another’s sorrow is to move beyond sympathy, and even empathy to a place of coexistence.

As Ken Kovacs said in his book Out of the Depths:

Christ showed us that we experience God’s grace in the broken places, in the sorrowful, tearful, crying places. Why does it have to be this way? I haven’t a clue, that’s the way it is. God’s grace is known the strongest in the weak and hurting and broken places – which is precisely the point of this Table and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and why he invites us to share this meal. Here we remember our loss of him but also how he was known to us in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35). But it has to be broken and then shared; then the meal takes on life, the life of Jesus who was broken for us and shared his life. It has to be broken and then shared; when lives break, when broken lives share, Jesus promises to be there too. An unwillingness to be broken and to share means we miss the Christ.


How can you bear the sorrows of another?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.




Ken Kovacs
Ken Kovacs

Kenneth E. Kovacs is pastor of the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland, and has served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. He is also an analyst-in-training at the C. G. Jung Institute-Zürich. Author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter & Conviction (New York: Peter Lang, 2011) and Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), his current research areas include C. G. Jung and contemporary Christian experience. Ken has served on the board of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, is a current board member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, and a book reviewer for The Presbyterian Outlook.

Ken’s weekly sermons at CPC can be found at


D I G  D E E P E R

 The Man of Sorrows

The “man of sorrows” of Isa. 53:5 is identified also (in the so-called “servant songs” of Isaiah [42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12]) as the “servant of the LORD.” In exegetical tradition the same figure is commonly referred to as the “suffering servant.” The character and mission of the servant is described in his own words, in the words of the Lord, and in the words of those to whom he has been sent (the “we” of Isa. 53:2–6). The servant has been chosen by God to “bring forth judgment to the nations” (Isa. 42:1); he will work patiently, confident that the Lord will in time vindicate the shame and violent scorn which he must endure. The climax of his story comes in the final poem, where those to whom the servant has been sent recognize that this man of sorrows, who is “despised and rejected” by them (53:3) and apparently judged and afflicted by God, is nevertheless God’s instrument to atone for their sins. He is “wounded for … [their] transgressions” and, despite his own innocence, condemned to die on their behalf. The poem concludes with the reaffirmation that the servant will not suffer in vain and that his mission will succeed.

The identity of the servant has long been the subject of controversy. He has been identified as a historical individual: the prophetic author himself, an anonymous contemporary of the prophet, Moses, Jeremiah, Hezekiah, and Zerubbabel, among others. Early rabbinic commentary was unanimous in seeing the description of the servant as a portrait of the Messiah. (A similar messianic reference occurs in a talmudic legend in which Elijah tells a rabbi seeking the Messiah, “A man of sorrows himself, he ministers lovingly to those who suffer, and binds up their wounds.”) But the concept of a suffering Messiah was generally problematic for later Jewish commentators who, following Rashi in the 11th cent., chose rather to see the servant as the embodiment of Israel.

Andrew of St. Victor incorporates in his (12th-cent.) commentary on Isaiah Jewish exegetical identification of the suffering servant with the Jews of captivity, or possibly Isaiah himself, not even mentioning a messianic or typological reading (Smalley, 164). For other Christian exegetes, however, the suffering servant was readily identified as Jesus Christ. Christ himself understood his mission in the light of the servant’s atonement through suffering and patient endurance, and the early Church reinforced the connection. The description of the Passion and death of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels is colored by references to the “servant songs” (e.g., Matt. 8:17; Mark 15:28; John 19:9). From the patristic era to the 18th cent. Christian interpreters were unanimous in seeing the last of the “servant songs” especially as a prophetic witness to the death of a sinless Christ for the sins of humankind.

Martin Luther in his commentary on Isaiah indicates the familiar view of Isa. 53:3 as a predictive description of Christ’s “physical, open and extremely shameful suffering” (Works, 17.220). Calvin, in his commentary on Isaiah, posits the sorrow and suffering as itself the motivation for humanity’s rejection of Christ (4.114). In his sermon of 1 July 1627 John Donne refers to Christ as the type of all sorrow: “who fulfil’d in himselfe alone, all Types, and Images, and Prophecies of sorrowes, who was, (as the Prophet calls him) Vir dolorum, a man compos’d, and elemented of sorrowes.” In another sermon (25 Aug. 1622) Donne asks that he himself be allowed to “be vir dolorum, a man of affliction, a vessell baked in that furnace, fitted by God’s proportion, and dosis of his corrections, to make a right use of his corrections.” In “Palm Sunday,” Henry Vaughan writes of “the man of sorrow / Weeping still, like the wet morrow,” who “comes to borrow” the “shades and freshness” of palm branches on his entrance into Jerusalem.

Melville takes quite a different approach when referring to the suffering servant in Moby-Dick: Ishmael suggests “that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped. … The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows.” Yeats’s “The Sad Shepherd” contains echoes of, if not direct references to, the man of sorrows in its description of “a man whom Sorrow named his friend” and who, because he was not listened to, could not be rid of the “ancient burden” of his “heavy story.” Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (chap. 3), makes more traditional use of the image, as Stephen considers the contrast between the humiliation of the first advent and the glory of the Second Coming.

Other echoes from the “servant songs” occur in a variety of English texts. Wordsworth, in “Maternal Grief,” speaks of a small boy whose twin sister has died as suddenly “acquainted with distress and grief ” (Isa. 53:3). In his “Stanzas to Augusta [B]” Byron echoes the same passage: “Thy soul with my grief was acquainted. …” Perhaps the most influential use of the man of sorrows motif, however, is Handel’s magnificent setting of the final servant song in his Messiah.

David L. Jeffrey, A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992).

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Rick Wilcox

Rick is voraciously interested in the holistic transformation of people individually and in an organizational context - enabled by technology, educated continuously through multi-channel systems and informed by the wisdom of history's greatest thinkers. He is a Ph.D. student at Faulkner University, focusing on the appearance of the Logos in English Literature. He earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Science in Management from Sam Houston State University. His undergraduate studies earned a BA with double majors in Sociology and Theology from Houston Baptist University. Rick is an ordained minister who leads the Parenting Teens Adult Community at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands Texas.