the way of suffering

Remembrance on the way, as I reflected on yesterday, leads us to consider what exactly is this way?

For Jesus, very clearly, the way is suffering and ultimately death. Jesus’ words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (quoting Psalm 22) are only the beginning:

“…scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads...
“[laying] in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.” (Ps. 22:6-7, 16-18)

And this suffering is not just social rejection, but life rejection – death. As the book of Revelation reminds over and over, Jesus is indeed the “Lamb who was slain” (5:12).

On the cross Jesus takes our suffering – sin and death – onto himself. His suffering is an expression of God’s deep love for a wayward humanity. And yet suffering not as pointless or even abusive violence, but God’s very giving up of himself. As I read one comment this week, “The Cross is not the Big Father God pounding the Smaller Son God to death. It is the One God–Father, Son, and Spirit–who suffers in the Cross-event.” In Jesus, we have a god who suffers with us and for us.

Thank Jesus we are not alone in suffering. Thank Jesus, he not only suffers with us, but has suffered for us.

Yet in our thanksgiving for Jesus’ suffering on our behalf, we should still sense the tension. Suffering and death, we know, was not God’s original plan. Suffering and death are a result of sin and rebellion.

For Jesus, and for us as his followers, suffering is not simply for suffering’s sake. Suffering is not right. Behind the way of suffering and death there is a hope for the way of life – sin and death turned into freedom and resurrection. Yet with Jesus’ death, suffering seems to win. Today we see the suffering and ask, “Is this all there is?” We hope for more. We need more. We desperately long for more.

But all we see is suffering and death. Even God in the flesh – Jesus, the slain Lamb – suffers and dies.

Here on Friday, then, we are confronted with this uncertainty of suffering. And we wait. We ask. We ponder. We cry out. We acknowledge our suffering. We sense God’s presence as he suffers with us all the while wondering if his death is really the victory he promised it to be. We still suffer, after all.

Will suffering and death define us? In many ways, if we’re honest on this Friday of all Fridays, then yes, suffering and death does define us.

Seeing suffering and experiencing suffering, we wait.

Jesus, our hope, has suffered and died.

We wait on the way of suffering...

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