The Gospel writers don’t linger on the gory details of Jesus’ flogging and crucifixion. The descriptions are scarce. The sentences are simple. The ghastly wounds on Jesus’ body are the same as the wounds on the bodies of millions of innocent people across the centuries and throughout the world. The Gospel writers are more interested in recounting why rather than what Jesus suffered.
At the cross we see the shocking truth with bloody clarity. God does not magically eradicate human suffering or the scars we carry from it. Instead, we see the naked, bleeding, vulnerable love of God enter fully into the naked, bleeding, vulnerable suffering of humanity. Jesus bears the brutal scars of the world’s sin and of our own.
The gospel doesn’t provide glib answers or simplistic solutions to our inexorable questions about innocent suffering and human sin. Instead, we experience the God who enters fully into the suffering we inflict on others and the pain that is inflicted upon us in a sin-broken, violence-addicted world.
Beyond our explanation but not beyond our experience, we know that Jesus bears our infirmities, that he is wounded for our transgressions, and that the extravagant love of this wounded God can heal us. Through Jesus’ obedience in suffering, he becomes the source of our salvation. Even his resurrection doesn’t wipe away those scars. For his disciples, Jesus’ scars confirm his identity as the risen Christ (John 20:20).
Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see the very dying form of One who suffered there for me; and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness. (umh, no. 297)
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. The Psalms tell of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. The author of Hebrews celebrates Jesus’ death as the final and perfect sacrifice. Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of two Gospel writers, particularly John. Jesus foreshadows his death in multiple ways, but even his closest followers struggle to understand and accept its meaning. Why would the Son of God experience such alienation and suffering? It is all for us, the ultimate work of love. But then he conquers the grave! Praise be to God!
Read John 13:21-32. When have you noticed darkness planting seeds of betrayal in your heart? How did you follow Jesus’ light?
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 53:1-5. On Good Friday, God enters into human suffering. When have you felt God’s presence in your suffering?
Read John 20:1-18. How has Christ found you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.