Sunday, 4 December 2016

Jesus came to earth… to suffer with us




For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.  Hebrews 2:10

It’s an intriguing verse, isn’t it?  We might think of Jesus’ suffering as regrettable, even unavoidable, but fitting?  Why was it fitting that Jesus should suffer?  Why, when the creator of the universe set in place his saving plan, should the pain not merely be necessary, but somehow deeply right? 
 
It is certainly not that all suffering is essentially good.  Any response to suffering simply must cry out against the children maimed by war or disease, the lives forever shadowed by abuse, the hearts shattered by one blow after another, and say: This should not be happening.  This is not right.

So God in Jesus didn’t say, it’ll be all right in the end.  He said something greater:  I am in it with you.  Jesus’ job was to plunge into the depths of all that wrongness, all that godforsakenness, and experience it fully, with us and for us.  He took on the pain of loving the unloveable and forgiving the unforgiveable.  He became the God alongside us, the God who understands.

And then – miraculously – this deepest experience of suffering became the victory over it.  The cross smashed a hole in the compressing darkness, and the resurrection let in a beam of light from beyond. Now the message was not just, I am in it with you.  It had become greater still:  You are in it with me.  The creator God had submitted himself to the worst of his creation and had suddenly, startlingly, come out the other side.  Not only that, but he had brought us with him.  

The New Testament letter-writers tried to convey this new idea by talking about sharing in Jesus’ suffering.  Jesus revealed the fullness of God’s love by blazing a new path through death and into glory, they said, and we can follow him.  As we share in his suffering, we share in his death, we share in his resurrection, and most of all, we share in his love.  John summed it up in his first letter:  We love, because he first loved us.

And that becomes the key to it all.  The suffering becomes fitting if it is undertaken out of love.  A love which was willing to be born in a stable, to feel pain along with us, and to bring us, along with Jesus, to perfection in love.

So this Advent, as we still struggle with all the pain in the world, we look again to the one who came to suffer with us.  And we find hope that as we share in his suffering, as he shared in ours, we too will come to know that perfect love. The love which loves the unloveable, and brings them to glory.

Photo attribution: By Vicki Nunn (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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