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How did Jesus deal with the question Who is responsible for our suffering?
The clearest insight into this question appears in Luke chapter 13 (NJB). Jesus was asked about two current events that prompted much local discussion. One was an act of political oppression, in which Pilate had killed members of a religious minority, while they were offering sacrifices to God; the other, a construction accident that killed eighteen people. Jesus answered and said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than any others, that this should have happened to them? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell, killing them all? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.(v 2-5) Jesus did not fully answer the question most in their mind---the cause of the suffering. Jesus answers from above to the questions raised from below. His answer from above is about spiritual death. Physical death should alert us to our spiritual death and unless we repent we will spiritually perish like them. When we witness death, it is a call for repentance, a call for a radical change of our hearts, a call for us to turn to God, a call for conversion and a call to be reborn from above.
Jesus never explains, Heres why those two
tragedies occurred. But He makes one thing clear---they occurred not as a result
of any specific wrongdoing of the victims. So no grieving relative need to stand
around wondering what brought about calamities; Jesus makes it plain that the
victims had done nothing unusual to deserve their fates. They were the same as
other people. They were sinners but no worse than other people. But Jesus
did not stop there. He uses both tragedies to point to the eternal truths
relevant to everyone---unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Jesus
implies that we bystanders of catastrophes have as much to learn from the
events, as do the victims. A tragedy should alert us to make ourselves ready
in case we are the next victims. Catastrophes thus join together victims and
bystanders in a call to repentance, by abruptly reminding us of the brevity of
But in verse 11 there before Him was a woman who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that crippled her and Jesus healed her and declared that Satan had caused her the pain; this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years---was it not right to untie this bond on the Sabbath day? (v.16)
Sometimes our illness could be due to our sins, as mentioned by Jesus in His healing of the paralyzed man. And now some men appeared, bringing on a bed a paralyzed man whom they were trying to bring in and lay down in front of Him. But as they could find no way of getting the man through the crowd, they went up onto the top of the house and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith He said, My friend, your sins are forgiven you.(Luke 5:18-20 NJB)
But Jesus makes it absolutely clear that
often our suffering has nothing to do with our sin or our parents sin.
Jesus disciples asked Him when they saw a man who was blind since birth:
Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents
sin? Jesus answered, His blindness has nothing to do with his sin or his
parents sin. He is blind so that Gods power might be seen at work in him.
(John 9:2-3 TEV) Here, Jesus teaches His disciples that suffering is no
longer tied to sin and punishment. This is a very radical and new concept
because all through the Old Testament there is this connection between suffering
and sin! And practically all of us still keep making that connection. The
enormity of our human suffering is caused not only by physical and emotional
pain, but also by our deep sense of guilt attached to the suffering. Jesus
radically and definitely disconnected suffering from sin and guilt. He did this
in His own person. He who was without sin suffered the most and so broke the
fatal connection between suffering and sin and guilt.
The best clue we have into how God feels about human pain is to look at Jesus response. He never gave an individual or a suffering person a speech about accepting your lot in life, or taking the medicine that God has given you. or you must have done something to deserve this. He seemed unusually sensitive to the groans of suffering people, and set about remedying them. And He used His supernatural powers to heal, never to punish.
But, what can we learn from Jesus Christs suffering?
Jesus learned about hardship, rejection
and betrayal. When Jesus first began His ministry, the people hooted, "Can
anything good come from Nazareth?" Jesus' neighbors once ran Him out of town and
tried to kill Him. The leaders of the day proudly announced that not one
authority or religious leader believed in Him. He was lonely, tired, hungry,
personally assaulted by Satan, persecuted by powerful enemies. Yet, when He met
people in pain, He was deeply moved with compassion. Not once did He say,
"Endure your pain! Swallow your grief!" When Jesus' friend Lazarus died, He
wept. Very often, every time He was directly asked, He healed the pain.
Sometimes He broke deep-rooted customs to do so, as when He healed a woman who
had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years on the Sabbath day or when he
touched outcasts, ignoring their cries of "Unclean!" And Jesus suffers pain when
He has an accuser slap His face, a whip lash across His back, and an iron spike
pound through muscle, tendon, and bone. The cross was a picture of torment and
suffocation to death, stretching for hours in front of a jeering crowd. The
pattern of Jesus' response should convince us that God is not a God who enjoys
seeing us suffer. Because of Jesus, God experiences, truly experiences, our
human pain. Our tears become His tears. He suffers with us. He suffers
for us. He shares our pain and suffering. He is our companion in suffering.
We have not been left alone in our suffering. God understands our suffering
and He will not allow it to be wasted. "For we do not have a high priest who
is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been
tempted in every way, just as we are---yet was without sin. Let us then approach
the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need."(Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV) We have a high priest
who, having graduated from the school of suffering, understands us, "Since He
Himself is weak in many ways, He is able to be gentle with those who are
ignorant and make mistakes.(Hebrews 5:2 TEV) Jesus elevated suffering,
transformed it, gave it power, and considers the pain of each member of the
human race His pain. So much so that when I alleviate the pain of my brother, or
am compassionate with his life, Jesus considers this done to Him, whenever you
did this for one of the least important of these followers of Mine, you did it
for Me! (Matthew 25:40 TEV)
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