Lesson 6: Jesus Suffered

Jesus suffers death on the crossThe next portion of the second article also emphasizes Jesus was a human with all of our limitations. “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”. There is nothing make believe here. Jesus dies. And before he dies, he suffers, alone. Two of the gospels picture him dying while believing he has been abandoned by his friends and even by the God he served. At death he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It has become very easy to miss all this by concentrating on some abstract atonement theory. Again fundamentalism, that is at heart a rival creed, makes this mistake. It claims the one and only way to interpret Jesus’ death is his paying the price for our sin. We are the ones who deserve eternal punishment for our constant failure to obey God’s law. That law must be satisfied. We are powerless to do this, so Jesus must do it for us.

This kind of thinking makes God captive to some strange kind of law. It completely ignores the priority of love that uses the law to guide humanity into a satisfying relationship with God. Now the law thwarts God’s love. God becomes a judge rather than a lover. Paul avoids all this by claiming Jesus’ death is the supreme act of God’s love without trying to place this into some logical theory. Love is experienced rather than explained.

Just as bad and maybe even worse, to tangle yourself in abstract theories is to depreciate Jesus’ words and actions. You find yourself arguing over possible human explanations about how Jesus’ death saves a broken creation and humanity rather than paying attention to God’s love in what Jesus says and does. Jesus teaches us how to live in this world by becoming the epitome of the righteous human who suffers in order to correct injustice. He makes quite clear the cost of doing God’s will often is to be rejected by worldly authorities and even to be executed as an enemy of humanity.

Ordinarily death is the end of the story. However, this is not the usual story. God is at work in Jesus, saving his creation from decay and freeing his people from evil. Righteous suffering brings healing. But more of that later in our study of this article.

Before we go on, it is worth noticing the only other human besides Jesus and Mary mentioned in the Creed is Pontius Pilate. Although he tried to wash his hands of responsibility, Christians associate him with their savior’s death down th.rough the ages. On the one hand, this reminds us that a legal political process led to Jesus’ execution On the other, it should stop in their tracks all efforts to blame the Jewish people for killing God’s Son. Jesus is killed because of the human evil found in all human societies and shared by us all.

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