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Summary: The world cries why when terrible things happen. Here is God's answer

WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO SUFFER?

Time after time I’ve heard people ask the question “WHY?”.When the tsunami happened, many people throughout the world asked “Why?” and came up with some very strange answers.

When someone we love very much suffers greatly throughout a long illness we ask “WHY?”. When they die we ask “WHY?” and the “WHY?” becomes even stronger.

I don’t know about you, but I was struck, powerfully by W.H. Auden’s poem, read at Geoff Coate’s Thanksgiving Service on Thursday. It’s last verse went like this:

“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

It was a great shout of pain, an honest shout of pain. This is how we feel when we lose a loved one. Once again it’s asking the question “Why?”

Lots of people find the question of suffering, the question of death, hard to face, Christians no less than others. We see our loved one suffering, and we ask “Why? Why does God allow it? If He’s a God of love as we’re told He is, why doesn’t He do something about it?”.

Recently in a survey about Christian belief, Churchgoers were asked “What do you find EASY to believe, and what do you find the hardest”. The surpising thing is that it wasn’t the Virgin Birth that worried them, nor the Miracles of Jesus, nor even His Resurrection.......”

What worried them most was the SUFFERING AND DEATH OF JESUS - the idea that God’s Son could suffer and die caused them lots of problems. I wonder if you feel the same?

Well, let’s unpack this a little, and start with the Disciples.

They had problems with the death of Jesus. The people walkiung the road to Emmaus, met a Stranger, and confessed to Him that the were shattered by Jesus’ death - NOT so much the fact of His death - people that we love die every day, and with the passage of time we come to terms with it. We start again and begin tofind a new creative path to follow, even though the loss is terrible and will never be forgotten.

No, what shattered these two Disciples was that it had happened at all. They had believed that Jesus was more than a normal human being - a prophet who was considered by God and all the people to be powerful in everything He did - so why did He have to suffer? Why did He have to die, especially by Crucifixion. Why hadn’t He used His power to avoid it?

But this Stranger faced them with hard facts: “How foolish you are - how slow to believe what the prophets had foretold! Wasn’t it NECESSARY for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter His glory?”.

Jesus was asking them: “What’s the Cross all about?”

a) Was it an accident? A defeat which could have been avoided? Not in the least, He said! He told them something which became the Central Fact of the Christian Faith, that the Cross was not a defeat which needed the Resurrection to put it right. It was the pivotal point of the Plan of God. Without the Cross there is no hope. Without the Cross there is no salvation.

So what IS the Cross all about? It’s about something I found in the pages of “The Times” written under the headline “FINDING GOD IN THE DEATH CAMPS”. It was written by a Jewish Rabbi, who told the story of Elie Wiesel, the Novelist who was a survivor of the Holocaust.

One day in his death Camp, Elie Wiesel was called out on Parade. The whole camp had been assembled to view the hanging of two Jewish men, and a young boy, by the SS guards. The men died quickly, but the child did not.......... As he stood there watching Wiesel heard someone cry out “Where is God? Where IS He?”

For more than an hour the child hung there before them, dying in slow agony, the whole camp watching in horror. Wiesel said, “I heard the same man asking hopelessly “Where is God now?”..... “Then I heard a voice within me answer him, “Where IS He? Where IS He? HERE He is - He is hanging on this gallows”. ‘And I saw that God is not an impassive presence in the Universe, but someone who suffers when His people endure misery and death. He is a compassionate and consoling God, who weeps for the Jewish people in their distress, and rejoices in the faith of those who hold steadfast to Him DESPITE THEIR AGONY”.

The Jewish Rabbi who wrote that Newspaper article then said this: “Wiesel’s vision of a suffering God is a response to those who maintain that religious faith has been eclipsed by the horrors of the Holocaust. If the God of Israel is a God of love, such love must be COSTLY AND SACRIFICIAL: it must embrace and share in the suffering of those who are loved”.

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