In suffering, it goes even deeper. We don’t only find the depths of God’s love. When we suffer, we do more than merely receive an object lesson.
In suffering, we find God himself.
God says that he is with the least among us. And the things we do to them, we do also to him.
We want see him. We won’t know he’s there. That seems to be the point. If we saw that it was Jesus with our own eyes, among the widows and orphans and beaten down, we might single him out. We might be trying to treat Jesus differently based on what we stand to gain.
Mysteriously, Jesus is there.
I don’t think it explains the issue to consider the following. But it gives the mystery a fuller character, gives us something deeper and stranger to drink in.
Jesus suffered horrifically. Much has been made of the physical aspects of his crucifiction. Lots has been said about the psychological impact of being abandoned by his followers.
I’m not interested in debating these analyses. Certainly the physical and emotional suffering was horrendous.
But they were the only the icing on the cake. The cake itself?
Jesus took on the sin of the world. Not just the sins of his friends or followers. Not just the sins of Jersalum. Not even just the sin of the people living in the world at that time. Jesus took on all the sin of the people who ever lived. Yours, and mine, and the people who live in New Jersey and the hippies in the 60’s and the Republicans in Orange County, California, and the Aborigonees in Australia. And all of these people’s grandchildren. And all of their grandparents. And so on…
It lead to the first and only separation between God the Father and Jesus in all of time. It lead Jesus to say “Why have you forsaken me?”
But even in this expression of despair, mysteriously, Jesus affirms his hope and faith. The very structure of these words is an echo of one of the psalms. Jesus was knowingly, intentionally coming back to the bible itself in his great time of darkness.
There is a mystery: choosing to suffer gives us the privilege of standing in solidarity with God. But this is only so because Jesus’ great suffering allowed him to stand in solidarity with us.
If history had unraveled differently, if we had lived before Jesus was born, we might say “God, you don’t get it. You have never been mortal. You have never been vulnerable. You have never been hurt in the ways that we can hurt.”
But this is the miracle and the mystery of Jesus Christ: the creator of the universe made himself mortal. Made himself vulnerable in a new way. Allowed himself to be hurt as we hurt.
And not only did he still maintain his moral perfection. But he took on the greatest suffering of any of us.