In these few short paragraphs, I cannot explain the necessity of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. I can point out that the suffering of our Lord is tied to the mystery of redemption.
Redemption is found in the midst of suffering. Were there no suffering, neither would there be the opportunity to know, long for, or to hope for redemption. Think about it long enough and you will come to see: you can’t very well celebrate redemption if there is nothing from which to be redeemed.
Unfortunately the way in which the passion of Jesus is taught these days focuses on the point of view that it is all about ME ME ME. Jesus died to forgive MY sins. That is, whatever few there are to be forgiven. But MY sins are not many, since I already am perfect in every way. And since I can justify why I did those things, they really aren’t really sins, now, are they?
So we tell ourselves this: I’m not a sinner, I’m just misunderstood by those around me who fail to see true genius, purity, and sincerity of heart. I always mean well, even if things don’t turn out well. So wasn’t it awfully nice of that Jesus fellow to die for my sins, but since there’s so little to be forgiven, he didn’t really have to do that, did he?
Well before you think that is all farfetched, it is a composite of things that I actually hear. And hear frequently.
Preoccupation with self. It is why we do not really understand about the necessity of Jesus’ suffering. We focus on ourselves and how our sins are so much less worse than others we know. As a consequence, we lose sight of the mystery of redemption, and I suppose that most folk really don’t actually believe that such a thing as redemption is possible.
Yet the work of the redeemer is to wallow in the brokenness. The Cappadocian Fathers understood far better than we, they taught, “That which he (Jesus) has not taken upon himself (about our nature) he has not redeemed.”
Well, it isn’t rocket science to notice that the world is presently in a mess. I don’t think it would help any to go to tell the people of Fukushima or Libya, or anywhere else that the world is a mess because they’re a bunch of sinners. But I rather expect that they would resonate with the idea that there’s room for redemption.
Jesus did not die because God the Father is a miserable so and so who had to punish someone for the sins of the world. He died to give us the sign that redemption is possible, even at the cross, even at the moment of death itself. He did not die to just forgive your sins. He died to give you hope.