“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying… My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Entry into the Kingdom of God, contrary to popular notions, begins with dismay—knowledge of our own forsakenness, and our moral barrenness that moves the bankrupt soul to cry out to God. Joy may come in the morning, but not without enduring a night of weeping.
Repentance is continually represented in the New Testament as a type of death. We are told we must die to all that we are so that the Spirit can bestow a new life upon us. This type of death may be more difficult and painful than physical death because it is a conscious choice. That is why few choose it.
Within the Passion of Christ is a lesson glossed over by most Christians. It is an honest mistake because, looking backward, they are zeroed in on the resurrection of Jesus. The atonement of the cross and the resurrection from the dead are important to the doctrine of salvation and eternal life. However, they are not the real lesson necessary for practical Christian living in the world today.
That lesson is obedience. And you will recall that, for those striving to live a godly life, obedience is better than sacrifice. It was Christ’s obedience to the will of God, the Father, that sent him to Pilate’s Hall, Calvary, and the grave. The elements of that obedience—the broken body and the blood—are the tokens by which we have communion with him in his suffering.
We are mistaken to think our identification with the obedience of Jesus ends with wine and a wafer. Faith in God is painful. Suffering awakens us to our need for God and our own frail insufficiency. We, like our Lord, are meant to suffer for our faith.
Here, I will lose many of you because people do not want to suffer and are more than ready to say that a God of love would not ask them to suffer.
To this, I have two objections. Christian or non-Christian people suffer, most often in response to their own actions. Suffering is in the world; God simply asks us to face it head-on trusting Him to see us through. We are here to live life, not avoid it.
Suffering or discomfort, if you prefer, is a teacher of lasting lessons. Of the few things I seem to really know, you can bet I learned those lessons by being knocked flat by them.
Jesus was not a masochist, he did not want to be beaten, flogged, and crucified, so he asked for the cup of suffering to pass from him—but only if the Father wished it that way. Therefore, the scripture says, “…he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Obedient unto death, that is the example left to his disciples. Obedience, when it is finished brings joy though it doesn’t always seem so in the moment. However, when time ceases to be, we will see that every act of obedience to God was always joyous because it pleased him.
The result of doing the will of God is always joy unspeakable and full of glory. Any suffering or momentary affliction, endured in this life as a result of doing the will of God, serves to work for us “an exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. There is no greater joy than the six words the Christian longs to hear God speak, “Well done good and faithful servant.”