Summary: Jesus' resurrection does not erase suffering or its effects, but it does overcome our suffering. He engages in all the friendly actions necessary to bring about healing and hope.
Dawn and I talk while we're driving quite often. Sometimes these turn into our best conversations. We've hashed out many of the world's worst problems in those talks.
Talking during travel is one of the world's oldest past times. The Canturbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a record of a chat along the road during a pilgrimage. Moses commanded that the Law of Israel be discussed in this very way:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV)
What is more, these two disciples, Cleopas and another, perhaps his wife, since they wound up at the same house eating together, were grieved over the fatal officialness of it all. This wasn't a natural death, it was an execution ordered by both Jewish and Roman rulers.
Jesus sidles up beside them, asking, "what's up?"
I love Cleopas' response. It's kind of incredulous. What would they be discussing besides these tragic events? Only a newly arrived visitor would not be discussing them. Only a person who was unaware of the events of the past few days.
But Jesus feeds the man's incredulity and Cleopas explains the whole thing:
• Jesus, a powerful, godly prophet
• Was handed over by one authority to be killed by the other
• He was executed a few days ago
• We had hoped He was Messiah
• Now, some of our friends are saying they saw angels who told them He was alive
• Some went to investigate but were left unsatisfied
Imagine the grief. These people are part of a select few who knew Him well. They are friends with the Apostles and with the women who went to His tomb. This is all that has been on their minds for days. They can't think about anything else.
We see the convergence of two kinds of suffering here. Jesus' suffering was incredible:
• False accusation and conviction
• Finally death
This overwhelming, physical, criminal punishment brought upon an innocent man becomes the basis for another kind of emotional suffering: grief.
• bargaining with God
• Deep sadness and depression
Most of us have suffered grief on one level or another. Some of us have suffered it repeatedly. It always has this element of repetition: telling and retelling the story of how our grief became real. These two are caught in that cycle.
The whole event of Jesus' resurrection, though, involves overcoming suffering.
• Jesus overcoming His own suffering
• Jesus overcoming the suffering of His followers
Jesus overcoming His own suffering
is rather complete. Suffering death and overcoming by coming back to life is a complete turn around. All the pain and all the mental anguish must settle into a background of experience as the joy of leaving it behind becomes real.
Jesus died with not only His own pain on his heart, but the pain of all the sins of the world as well. If "what goes around, comes around." And if we have done bad things that will, eventually, come back to haunt us, then Jesus is hanging on the cross right there between us and those bad things, to catch them and to take our ultimate consequences.
Since the time of Adam, death is the penalty for sin, but Jesus took that penalty for us. Believers no longer die because they are sinners, they die because they are mortal human beings. The distinction may seem technical, but it is important. Because Jesus died, and he rose again, bringing an end to suffering for Himself and suffering for sin for all who believe.
Jesus also rose to overcome our suffering
Jesus' resurrection did not erase the fact of His own suffering, it overcame it.
In the same way, Christians may still suffer, but the power of that suffering has been overcome so that it may be limited by the hope of the resurrection.
One of the great things about God is that He listens even though He knows all. Jesus gave these disciples a chance to tell their story from their own perspective and listened till they had opened their hearts.
This is what prayer does for us. God knows our troubles. It is one of His primary characteristics. He knows.
• He knows every nuance of every detail
• He knows the causes and the effects
• He knows the end from the beginning
• He knows the secret workings of your heart
And yet He wants you to tell Him. He wants to hear you say it. I like what C.S. Lewis says. We don't change God with our prayers. Prayer changes us. In telling God about that which He already knows, we open ourselves to gain His perspective.