Out of the Anguish of His Soul

“Out of the anguish of his soul.”


Anguish is one of those words that sounds like what it means. Extended pain and grief; intense sorrow and suffering — there are lots of English words that get at the same idea. The Hebrew word here in Isaiah 53, verse 11 is translated in other places as anxiety or toil — and we understand that. Many of us have felt those words, but still, anguish has a power of its own. 


It is an ugly word, I think, partly because of the guttural sound in the g- … we say “ang-.” And we have to reach back into our throats to make the sound, and then it just flattens out with the “shhh.” 


There is no sharp beginning and end. The word just rumbles up and then fades. It never comes to a hard stop, it just stops being heard, and it’s left spread out like something toxic in the air. 


From somewhere deep in here, bulky and obtrusive, to somewhere out there, open-ended and invisible, anguish is a terrible word because anguish is a terrible thing. It sounds like what it means, and we don’t like what it means because we don’t like how it feels.


“Out of the anguish of his soul.”

And if the word anguish wasn’t deep and mysterious enough there is the word soul, which refers to the deepest, most mysterious part of a human being. The soul is that invisible ocean inside of us, eternal and expansive. The soul is that in us which is beyond ourselves, and if it is an ocean we do not know its shores. And if it is in anguish, we cannot fathom the wound that caused it.

Despised and rejected by men. The grief he bore; the sorrows he carried. Stricken and smitten by God. Afflicted and tortured. Crushed and punished. Abused and abandoned. We get the hurt, but what’s the cause?

Our transgressions. Our iniquities. My sins. Your sins. His anguish of soul.

And what do we expect from such anguish?

The bitter hearts among us embitter. The critical criticize. The wounded wound

I learned this from a bird dog in North Carolina named Lady. This was back when I was growing up. It was my cousin’s dog, and it was a male dog named Lady because my cousin liked the movie Lady & the Tramp, and I remember one summer Lady had found a shady spot in the yard behind the front tire of my granddaddy’s truck, and my grandaddy had no idea until he heard the yelp

He had backed over part of Lady’s leg, but then he pulled up, and Lady was still laying under the truck, and I remember when they tried to reach the dog — to pull the dog out and help — the dog just growled and snapped and tried to bite everybody. And please afford me some poetic liberty here, but I remember my southern grandaddy saying, with orange dusk background, “Well, grandson, this is why you never pet a dog when it’s hurt.” 

Because hurt animals don’t want to be petted. Their defenses are up. They’re frightened. They are in pain, and this works in general. The worse the wound the fiercer the backlash.

And so what do we expect to come out of the anguish of his soul?

This is the soul of the Son of God whose will it was to crush him. 

“Out of the anguish of his soul.”

What should we expect?

“Out of the anguish of his soul … he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their inequities.” (verse 11).

Out of the anguish of his soul … he saw you … sitting here … forgiven

Lord Jesus, on this Maundy Thursday night, we remember you at the Last Supper with your disciples. We remember you troubled in spirit because you knew what was to come: betrayed, and then denied, and then abandoned. Falsely accused. Unjustly condemned. Beaten beyond recognition. Crucified on the cross. We remember you, Jesus, loving us to the end. You died for our sins. You suffered our punishment. By your wounds we are healed. Out of the anguish of your soul you have made us righteous. Thank you, Jesus, and indeed, in this moment, we remember and we give you thanks. 

The Table

If you’re here tonight and you trust in Jesus, if you are forgiven, we invite you to eat this meal with us. We will have an extended time here to remember Jesus, and when you are ready you can come forward and take the bread and cup.

So on the night that Jesus was betrayed — this night — Jesus took the bread, and after giving thanks, he broke the bread and said: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

And then likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup and said, “This is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”