Holy Week – Suffering God

At the centre of Christian faith is the memory of suffering.

This is Holy Week, when Christians recall the last days of Jesus’s life, “in whose body was named all the violence of the world, and in whose memory is contained our profoundest grief” (Janet Morley).

Jesus is anointed and crowned ‘King of the Jews’, and in his kingship he suffers. Thorns pierce his scalp at his coronation.

Jesus suffers. He is betrayed, accused, arrested, tried unjustly, and abandoned. Crowds shout ‘Crucify Him!‘, he is stripped, violated, tortured. He thirsts, he is anguished, he gives up his spirit.

Jesus is crowned ‘King of the Jews’, and in his kingship he suffers. Thorns pierce his scalp at his coronation.

We all know what it is to suffer, and in Jesus we find God in solidarity with us. Jesus suffers to be with us.

And in particular, we find God in solidarity with the poor, because it is the poor who suffer most intensely and helplessly. And while for many of us an unjust trial and imprisonment is a remote possibility – for the majority of the world’s population it is a realistic fear.

Jesus’ suffering on the cross speaks of helplessness and it speaks of the violence which continues across the world: the overt violence of military repression, the quiet and hidden violence of international debt and inequality which deprives people of what they need to live freely.

And so it is that the Christian faith preserves a memory of suffering at it’s centre. Often we would prefer not to confront what is unbearable. But in recalling the last days of Jesus we are asked to do just that.

The Christian faith preserves a memory of suffering at it’s centre.

Because we know a suffering God we do not need to keep our suffering away as if the questions and emotions that accompany it will be too much, or beyond God’s comprehension. Instead, we are invited to bring everything – everything within our past and present of which we are most ashamed and frightened, everything of violence and everything of our helplessness to change – to the foot of the cross.

We are able to offer ourselves to a God who shares our pain and failure.

Our God is the King crowned a criminal. A King whose robes are stolen. A King who desperately wants us to know he knows our suffering, pain, helplessness, fear and hurt. A King who wishes to be with us in our darkest moments of human experience.

At the centre of the Christian faith is the memory of suffering.

Reflect –

  • What is the greatest source of pain or hurt in your life at the moment?
  • Spend some time thinking/praying about those around the world who are imprisoned, who are facing unjust trials, who are currently facing violence and conflict
  • The “Crucified Christ”, the “Criminal King” was scandalous to first-century Jews. Spend a moment contemplating this. I have found it helpful to think about the media headlines that would run if a public figure I really respected was jailed.

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