Tag Archives: suffering

The Christ, Part 2

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. ~Winston Churchill

Christmas is a happy time- angels, children, gifts, singing. It’s peace, joy, hope, and love. Christmas is God’s graciousness and mercy. Fa la la and ringing bells. Sleigh rides, snowmen, and hot chocolate.

While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night,
Behold throughout the heavens,
There shone a holy light:
Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

But Mark doesn’t have time for all that.

The first 15 verses of Mark are rapid fire. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Isaiah predicts his coming, John says he’s coming, and then, BOOM, there he is!

Jesus comes down from Nazareth to be baptized. John is arrested, Jesus is tempted, and “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

What? No manger? No singing angels? No PRESENTS!?

No.

Mark is writing to a group of Christians who understand persecution. They’re being rounded up, taken from their homes, and set on fire to light Nero’s garden at night. They are the Christmas lights.

For Mark’s readers, it’s important to know that Christ also suffered.

He lost his family. He lost his friends. He faced ridicule, hatred, and persecution. He suffered at the hands of men and of Satan. His suffering was mental, emotional, and physical.

Mark spends his book writing about this suffering savior, and then he ends it this way:

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 

Jesus’s birth was announced by angels, and everyone came to see the miracle. His resurrection was also announced by angels, and people ran to hide.

As you celebrate Jesus’s birth this month, enjoy the glamour and gift-giving, the cookies and crafts, the parties and punch.

But don’t forget that Jesus also suffered so that one day we can enjoy the ultimate celebration. Be sure to tell the end of the story this Christmas, too.

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.


And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-39 ESV

Deliverance Dance

sufferingMy newest writing endeavor is about a doctor who is confronted with death and dying. It seems that he has an anti-Midas touch; everyone he touches dies. The story deals with the age-old dilemma of suffering. If God is good, merciful, kind, abounding in love, then how can he allow all of this pain and suffering? Why doesn’t he answer us when we beg for healing and life?

I don’t have an answer. Not a good answer anyway. There are trite answers. There are answers that shove pain and misery under the covers as if their lumps can not be seen in the deathbed.

What I do have are examples of how to behave when we suffer.

+Begging is permissible: Hannah begged for a son and her cries were answered with the birth of Samuel. David begged with every fiber of his being that his baby son would be spared death. The child died. Yet, a “No” to David’s pleas did not mean the turning of his back and neither can it mean ours. Begging is permissible while opportunity exists. Faithfulness is mandatory no matter what the begging achieves.

+Grief harbors compassion: Jesus, the embodiment of God, looked upon suffering and death often. He responded with healing and life, with words of comfort, and with instruction. When his good friend Lazarus passed away, Jesus wept. When he imagined his mother’s pain at his death, he provided a caregiver for comfort. We are not left alone in our dungeon to cry out into unfeeling darkness. Even when it feels we are alone, the truth is that we are not.

+ Suffering is not a punishment: Sometimes God punished the Israelites and other people with suffering. They disobeyed his commands and they were stricken with sores, snakes, famine, disease, and war. But other times there seemed to be no disgrace in the suffering. The most famous of these examples is of course Job, but there was also Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, Sarah and Rachael’s barren years, and in the New Testament there is Paul. Paul originally was a tyrant to Christians, but he became one of the leading apostles in spreading the news of Jesus and salvation. Certainly he should not have had to suffer imprisonment, floggings, shipwrecks, and health issues.

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16

Did you catch that? Sometimes we are chosen for suffering. It may seem terribly unfair, unjust, even unrighteous and unholy, yet we may still be chosen. Perhaps that is where we can draw the line and see God’s good, merciful, kind, abundant love. He has chosen some of us, perhaps you, to suffer so that his name will be glorified so that others might be saved.

Trite? Perhaps.

But suffering was the ultimate gift of Jesus. Through his suffering we are each allowed to enter the holy presence of God. Would you be willing to suffer so that others can join you in the eternal praise of heaven?

“These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.” Jonathan Edwards

Jesus’ Lifetime of Suffering

The manger and the tree are put away. The returns have been made, the furniture put back in place, and school books are tossed on the stairs. Yes, Christmas is over.

2000+ years ago it meant that Mary’s breasts ached, Joseph was job hunting in an overpopulated town, and the baby cried a lot. Christmas was far from over. Christ had come and, at the same time, had not yet come. Mary and Joseph had a lot of work ahead of them. They were new parents, confused and bewildered, and deservedly so.

Others parents wonder how this tiny life happened and how they will cope. Mary and Joseph really didn’t know how this tiny life happened, and it sure didn’t seem like things were going the way God would want His son to be cared for; confused and bewildered didn’t even begin to describe them.

The days flew by and soon toddler Jesus was walking and talking. The family moved a couple of times and then found themselves settling down in Nazareth. By now Mary and Joseph had a couple more kids and had figured out how all of this was supposed to work.

Perhaps now the gossip that had followed them in Bethlehem would die down. But people are slow to forget a scandal, and children are cruel. I wonder about the Torah lessons and if Jesus was made an example of during class. I wonder if kids whose parents talked too much would later during a game spit the ugly words out at the child Jesus. I wonder if he cried at the sting of the words, or even the sting of a stone.

Having a mother’s heart, I feel the pain Mary must have felt as her son was treated with disdain. Joseph was a good man, treating Jesus as his very own, but a father’s love can only shield so much, and children are cruel. But the times that I want to shield my children turn into the times that help them grow into men. Learning to live through life’s pain is part of learning to live. So Mary held her tongue.

Is that how Jesus learned to deal with and be merciful to sinners when he was grown? Did living on “the wrong side of the tracks” give Jesus some insight into the pain of those he came to serve? When they asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”, did Jesus remember the childhood of disgrace?

Hebrews says that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered, but he didn’t start by going to the cross. He started by being a baby, a child, a teen; each step of growth a new lesson to learn until ultimately he was ready to obey. Where are you on this journey of obedience? Are you still falling on your toddler hands and knees, or are you stepping forth declaring with your changing voice and body that you “know what you are doing”? Or, have you, like the adult Jesus, learned obedience from what you have suffered?

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:7-10 ESV