Friday, April 06, 2007

The Suffering and the Glory: Good Friday Tidings

"My God my God, why have you forsaken me?"
–Christ's cry from the cross (Matt 27:46)

As long as I can remember, Jesus' desperate dying question to his Father has made me ponder. Surely the Father could never have forsaken the Son! On the other hand, certainly Christ's lament had a real purpose, more than just a mere quoting of Psalm 22:2. What then could the reason be?

When I was a young man, I wrote that perhaps for Christ's sacrifice for our sins to be effective, there had to be some risk involved. In other words, if no one was present that fateful afternoon, praying for Christ's mission of salvation, His sacrifice (which of course was for OUR redemption, not his) would have been in vain. God cannot look at us when we are filled with sin, and since Jesus had all the sins of the world on his back at the moment, for the first time the Father really did briefly turn away from his Son, causing Jesus' utterance of true abandonment. Meanwhile, though most of his disciples did flee from their master that first Good Friday, fortunately Mary and John (as well as some of the holy women) did remain praying at the foot of the cross throughout, and their prayers for their Lord were enough to turn God's loving glance of grace back toward his Son, and the sacrifice was saved.

As with most youthful theology, this idea contained much holy zeal as well as a few human flaws. I'm not sure we can really ever say God the Father separated himself from his Son even for a second (for the trinity is always one) yet I do believe that Mary and John, the most steadfast of believers, did play a vital part in Christ's sacrifice. Ultimately, Christ doesn't need our prayers and sufferings, and yet Christ does desire our love, which renders Paul's statement "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24) true as well. If Christ HADN'T been raised from the dead, Paul said, our faith in the Resurrection would be folly (see 1 Cor. 15:18-19). But if we do not share in Christ's suffering today and along the way, our hope in the Resurrection remains quite fickle.

When we play (or watch the Irish) in a sporting event, we always prefer to win easily, yet if we pull the game out after a monumental struggle, it becomes all the more memorable.

Similarly, if we enter not only into Christ's Easter joy but also his Good Friday sufferings, we will find our faith life much more meaningful. If "it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer all these things to enter into his glory" (Luke 24:25), certainly his disciples—his true fans—should expect nothing less on their journey to his kingdom.

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