Making sense out of Jesus’ death

In my experience, people have a difficult time with Holy Week. Looking at the suffering of our Lord Jesus is uncomfortable for most of us. Looking deeper into the powerful truth conveyed during Holy Week is also an uncomfortable experience for most. Who wants to be reminded that Jesus walks in the way of the cross? Who wants to be reminded that the human condition known as life is essentially about walking in the way of the cross? Who wants to be reminded that we all eventually learn obedience to God, to the laws of nature and the laws of society by the things which we suffer and endure?

Those are most certainly not the top items most of us with to dwell upon on a daily basis. Certainly as a parish priest, I have a greater awareness that most of us. I spend a great deal of time walking around hospitals, nursing homes and rehab centers visiting not only with members of the parish, but the whole host of humanity in need—desperate need of comfort, hope and assurance. Once upon a time, my brother and I went to visit a friend in the hospital after hours. What a shock it was to him. We stepped off the elevator on the 7th floor of that hospital. Instantly surrounded by a group of people who did not speak English, my brother and I were led down the hallway to the room of their relative. He waited outside the crowded room while I went in to see the patient. Being yet cognizant, she was able to receive what were for her the Last Rites.

At the time of the Vietnam War in the 1960’s it was noted that this was the first war that took place in our living rooms. Crude by today’s standards of high definition, television was able to take us there day by day. Each day’s events were prominently displayed on the evening news. How much more true it is these days. Communication has become only faster. Once you hit “send” it is gone and out there.

No doubt, a consequence of all this is that our awareness of the human condition has become intensified. As that is the case, the dimension of the human condition—as the enormity of it presses us, we can begin to see how it makes sense. If God were going to save us, He would have to do it precisely in the way He chose. Looked at in this perspective, Jesus’ may be seen not so much as a punishment for human sins, but the corrective for something much larger. His is the sacrifice that puts the fallen-ness of creation right. It would take something enormous to put to right all that is wrong in the world. That something is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross—not simply for your sake and mine—but for the whole world. And similarly, the resurrection also takes on the enormous proportion: God not only puts to right what is wrong with the world, but He offers the promise and the start of life that is new.

So many people know so very little about what Christianity really has to say and teach that these important messages of hope are often overlooked. We’re the ones that persist in trivializing Christianity into something less than the radical message it presents.


Father Greg+


About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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