Thursday, 5 April 2012

Good Friday: The God who suffers.

I have three heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus.  Each of them understood there was a powerful, transformational relationship between unearned suffering and redemption.

·        Gandhi led his people in a great revolution.  India wanted freedom from Colonial English rule.  Gandhi took the tools of suffering and non-violence as his chosen weapons to fight his battles with.  At one time he called his people to go on a great march … ending at the sea where they made salt.  They broke the laws of England that forbade the production of salt … the English had a monopoly on the salt trade … and England to defend their profits sent the police and army in.  As a result many, many Indians were brutally beaten.  The world’s media covered the story … the world heard about the savagery and took action.  As a result India gained her independence.

·        Gandhi knew as Martin Luther King Jr. was to learn a generation later … “unearned suffering is redemptive”.

·        A generation after India gained her independence, Black  Americans found themselves engaged in a struggle for freedom also.  Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader in that struggle.

·        He too led his people on a march, this time over a bridge, where they were met by the police, with batons ready … as the front row of marchers met the police they were knock senseless to the ground … but the row behind pressed forward taking their place to be bludgeoned … row after row … the beaten victims carried away and bandaged … all the while the television cameras were sending the pictures into the homes of America, ordinary people became horrified by what they were witnessing … the broken skulls, black eyes and the beating of the unarmed … non resisting black marchers caused the silent people to finally demand a change … the end of segregation was achieved with broken bodies of the non-resisting marchers.

·        There is something truly and remarkably redemptive about unearned suffering.

Martin Luther King and Gandhi both had a model. 

The Prophet Isaiah announced to the world that God’s chosen servant, God’s Messiah would be rejected by the world.

·         He would be made to suffer greatly.  He would be stricken … smitten …  afflicted …  pierced …  crushed … punished and wounded. 

·        He would suffer these indignities and pain on our behalf, because he … the innocent one would take our sins upon himself and would be punished for them in our place.

·        It would be through Jesus’ unearned suffering that we receive redemption.


Each Jew had a Redeemer Kinsman whose task was three fold.

1.      To buy back property or the person sold into slavery … to ensure freedom.

2.     To take the life of another who had murdered a relative … to ensure justice.

3.     (Ruth and Boaz)  To marry a relatives widow, and to make sure an heir was born … the child born to such a relationship was treated as the child of the dead person … to ensure a future as a member of God’s chosen people.

Jesus became the redeemer of the whole world. 

·        His death ensures freedom from slavery to sin.  We can become the recipients of God’s grace.  We can enjoy true freedom to be the people God created us to be.

·        His death pays sins penalty.  The wages of sin is death; Jesus has paid that penalty once and for all time.  The demands of justice have been met.

·        His death ensures an eternal future, freed from any pain or suffering.  A glorious future in the presence of God.  We no longer need to be eternally separated from God.  We have the chance to enjoy the perfect future.

All this has been made possible by the suffering Jesus Christ.  Although he did nothing to deserve the agony he went through his unmerited suffering made possible the redemption of the whole world.

·        Each week in the Communion service we say the prayer of Consecration, reminding us all of the words of Jesus on the night before he died on the cross…

·        “Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it too his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me’.  Likewise after supper he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from this all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for the many for the remission of sins.’

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. both knew the power of unearned suffering.  Gandhi adapted the ideas to win freedom for India, but did not accept Jesus’ promises of redemption for himself.  He rejected Christ … I believe to his own loss.

Martin Luther King also adapted the power of unearned suffering to bring freedom to black America.  King also saw the redemption Jesus won on the cross as something Jesus did for him.  King was able to write:

“More than ever before I am convinced of the reality of a personal God.  True, I have always believed in the personality of God.  But in the past the idea of a personal God was little more than a metaphysical category that I found theologically and philosophically satisfying.  Now it is a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life.  In the midst of lonely days and dreary nights I have heard an inner voice saying, “Lo, I will be with you.”  When the chains of fear and the manacles of frustration have all but stymied my efforts, I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. 

Do you have that same assurance of the presence and care of a loving God in your life.  The choice is yours; you too can either accept or reject the redemption Jesus won for us on the cross.  The choice is yours alone to make.  I believe there is no other way to find peace with God, than through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

·        It is only through Jesus’ suffering and death that we have peace with God.

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