Monday, December 31, 2012

Too Much Suffering?

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Too  Much  Suffering?

Mel Gibson’s movie about the last hours of Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem, including the illegal trial and terrible scourging, has produced welcome debate about the facts of Jesus trial and crucifixion. Unbelievers are objecting to the terrible brutality depicted in the film. Humanists like to see Jesus as a great teacher who encouraged people to love each other and to let everyone do as they pleased. They do not like to be reminded of the horrible nature of sin. They do not believe in good and evil, but in time and chance. The suffering of Jesus does not fit nicely into their warped view of the how things work.

Even Christians have difficulty reconciling love and suffering. How can a loving Creator allow such terrible things as the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus to take place? How could Jesus look down from the cross into the tearful eyes of His mother, and refuse to come down from the cross to comfort her?

There is no greater demonstration of love possible than that shown by Jesus in His suffering in our place. The reality of the consequence of sin, its horrible nature, its destructive menace, is fully revealed in the scenes from the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The scourging, the hateful ridicule, the insults, the spit in His face, and the lifting up on the cruel cross at Calvary reveal that God is serious about sin and its consequences, and that God does love each of us.

I hope that we can carry those scenes in our minds,  and that we be always aware that it was our sins that Jesus carried on that day. Mel Gibson held the nail and hammered the blow that nailed Jesus to the cross. He has done a great service to society in admitting that his personal sin, and the sins of each of us, were what caused the horrible suffering of Jesus. How can we know that God loves His people? Because Jesus, the Son of God, suffered like that for each of us.

France decided that the movie should not be shown in their theaters, because of the fear that it might encourage the anti-Semitism that is becoming more problematic in Europe. Much of the complaints against the movie have been from those who fear it will arouse hatred of the Jewish people. 

Hopefully the movie will cause people to hate sin. It was the politicians who were worried about saving their own lives who arranged the crucifixion, John 11:45-50:  Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

"What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."  

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." NIV 

A mob arranged by the politicians cried out for the crucifixion of Jesus, "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.  
They all answered, "Crucify him!" 
"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.  
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"  

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"  

All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"  

Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (Matt 27:22-26, NIV)           

Surely the people got their request, as revealed in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and the following persecution. But ultimately it was God the Father who collaborated with his only begotten Son Jesus to provide the ultimate demonstration of love. 

Through the suffering of Jesus, we are called to suffer also, so that others may live. Pray that all people will be touched by the gospel story, and turn to Christ.  We all caused the crucifixion of Jesus, as He died for the sins of all people.  When we believe in Him, and decide to trust in Him by turning away from our selfish ways, we can be buried with Jesus in baptism and raised to walk in new life.

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