Christ Crucified, 1632, Diego Velazquez 1599-1660, oil on canvas, 248 X 169 cm, Prado Museum Madrid Spain, Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Apostles’ Creed Week #4 : “Was Crucified”
Pain that goes on and on….pain that will not let you go….physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual pain.
Loneliness, loss of control, humiliation and despair…
Diego Velazquez expertly brings us to the foot of the cross for an up close view of Jesus, as he suffers for our sins. Unlike so many other crucifixion paintings, you really can’t turn away from the scene and focus on anything else….. it is Jesus, alone, as he suffers.
Being the child of a severely disabled parent, I have a history of looking away from suffering, of pretending it really doesn’t exist, but at some point you realize that you can’t run or hide from it. And then comes the day when you begin to see that there is real hard core suffering in the world around us, everyday.
I was reminded of this fact this week when a dear friend of mine called to tell me her mother had died. This was a mother who had really suffered under the slow, debilitating disease of MS. My friend, therefore, is a child who watched the horror as it slowly unfolded during the golden years of her youth. What do you say to the child of that kind of suffering? A child who knows all to well that life is filled with suffering and pain. A child, like me, who learned it when she was only a baby herself. What do you say?
So here goes my thoughts for what it is worth:
Perhaps we should consider that this is where the cross can be so powerful. Yes! Jesus died for our sins to give us the gift of grace and the promise of heaven, but knowing this sometimes causes us to look away in shame that he needed to do that for us..for me, but maybe there is more to be seen here if we really look. If we dare to look long and hard and listen to the last words that he spoke.
I thirst….My God why have you forsaken me?….Father forgive them for they know not…Mary your son, John your mother…Behold this day you will be with me in paradise…into your hands…it is finished.
I had never really focused my mind here before and when I stopped and thought about it, I must admit, that there were several things I just didn’t want to read about in the pages of my Bible…like what about that part of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus teaches “Narrow is the way and few there will be that find it.” Don’t you just want to pass over that part?
So what if the cross is also about showing us this way? What if the narrow way, is the way of suffering, a suffering that refines and perfects us? (Galatians 2:20)
I believe a deep long look at the cross teaches us how to live, how to love so much that we suffer for it and how to embrace God’s plan for us, because ultimately, while his tremendous gift of grace gives us security and makes us feel greatly valued, it is the suffering that inspires us to rise higher…to live his life many times over.
Jesus in his suffering shows how to be meek, compassionate, forgiving; how to ask for what you need; how to enlarge your family and how to express your deepest questions of despair.
When we see the way of the Cross, our hearts melt, because in this moment, we realize that God is with us. God doesn’t promise us that life will have no suffering, what he does instead is he suffers with us….Emmanuel….God is with us, in the suffering.
So what do I know about suffering, the same thing my dear friend knows, embrace the cross and when you do lift up your hearts to God who will finally say “It is finished”
Our Father who lives and breaths among us, holy be in me this week and be with Becky as she buries her dear mother. Wrap her in your loving embrace like a small child and whisper ” It is finished.”
Hallelujah! Praise be to God, Emmanuel.