The Suffering Messiah 

Christ is risen! 

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Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:2-3)

Biblical scholar Michael Gorman comments on how St Paul not only believed the suffering Messiah was God’s plan, but that he also believed he himself was supposed to participate in the Christ’s suffering—it is in fact the way to glory for all Christians.  Paul said, “For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13)

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… it reveals his [Paul’s] deep conviction that Christ’s suffering and death constituted a revelation of divine love for the world, a love into which he and his churches were now caught up; they were called to narrate to the world, in word and deed, the suffering and reconciling love of God in Christ. To suffer for others is to absorb evil and pain rather than inflict them; that was God’s way in Christ, and it became Paul’s way, too, the natural consequence of his conversion from violence as his means to justification before God . . .  Indeed, for Paul suffering is also a prelude to glory, as crucifixion is to resurrection; shame gives way to honor in the economy of God. Just as Christ was humiliated and then exalted, in the pattern of the suffering servant of Isa 52:13-53:12, so also those who suffer with him as God’s servants will be glorified with him (Rom 8:17; Phil 3:10-11). Paul even employs unusual terms to designate this overarching pattern of participation in Christ: to co-suffer and be co-glorified (Rom 8:17; Greek sympaschomen  and syndoxasthomen). (READING PAUL, pp 150-151)

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As Gorman notes, “To suffer for others is to absorb evil and pain rather than inflict them, that was God’s way in Christ.” Applying that thought to the current situation in Ukraine, we should expect to see Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the man he is supposed to shepherd, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, willing to suffer for their fellow Orthodox in Ukraine rather than to inflict suffering and violence on them.  Even more dismally shocking is that one claims Ukrainians are part of his flock and the other claims they are his fellow countrymen –and yet they wage war on Ukrainians.  By choosing the way of violence and war in inflicting suffering on millions, they reveal that they do not follow Christ. Rather they seem to be descendants of the fratricide Cain.  They are advocating a violence which led God to say to Noah: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13).  If they followed Christ they would know what St Paul commands: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

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In the U.S., we too have to apply Scriptures as well as Gorman’s comment to our own situation in which gun violence continues to murder innocent children.  How can we absorb this evil and pain without inflicting more evil and pain?  That is a question for us Christians in America to think about.  Why is our country’s culture so violent as compared to all other civilized nations on earth?  What do we need to do to change this or what can we do?  I don’t have any easy solutions, but do believe we need to actively wrestle with this and not just accept this as part of our form of freedom. The murders of our nation’s children by gun violence are self-inflicted gun shot wounds. We are responsible for this because we claim everyone has a right to bear arms and we don’t want background check for every gun purchase and we don’t want registries for guns and gun owners.  We act as if gun ownership makes us free, while we become increasingly paranoid of gun violence and try to create a fortress America in which everyone must be willing to kill to maintain their right to bear arms.  Freedom is being taken away by fear.  For people who want to blame mental illness for all the gun violence, they might look at their own attitudes towards guns as part of that illness.  The more guns there are, the more gun deaths there will be.  Apparently Americans think MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction – in which everyone owns a gun and is willing to kill anyone who threatens them is not madness.  Thou shall not kill, God said, apparently not thinking about the 2nd Amendment.

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If all we can come up with is kill those who are or would be violent, then we are simply responding to evil with more evil while relying on God’s final enemy, Death (1 Corinthians 15:26), to solve our problems. We need to work on changing hearts and minds – repentance, not just in some petty moralistic or ritualistic sense, but as a project to deeply alter the course of our country’s mindset.

Truly, He is risen!