By the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, we have in mind the intense journey that began with his entry into Jerusalem to loud acclaim (Palm Sunday) in preparation for the Jewish feast of Passover. Events gain momentum with his celebration of the Jewish Passover with his disciples (Holy Thursday evening; also known as ‘the last supper’). This quickly led to his betrayal, torture and death (Holy Thursday and Good Friday). It culminates in his burial and restoration to new life (Good Friday and Holy Saturday) and his appearance first to Mary Magdalene and then his closest disciples (Easter Sunday).
Christians differ on the way they interpret the meaning of Jesus’ suffering and death. Some believe that for our sins to be forgiven God needed to be paid a ‘price’ so that justice would be seen to be done. This view understands that all our actions have an effect and, while God can and does forgive, the impact of those actions cannot be ignored. In this view, Jesus is the sacrifice God requires to bring the imbalance we have caused through our sins back into balance.
Another view, while not ignoring the need to have balance restored, is that the only way for the effects of sin to be healed is through love. Love is the most powerful and healing force in the universe. God is love. Darkness can only be overcome by light. In the extraordinary love that Jesus shows by handing himself over to those who would do him harm, he undoes the darkness of sin and death and allows us to enter again into the fullness of light and life that God has for us. This is less about God ‘requiring a price to be paid’ than it is God taking on our woundedness in himself (for Jesus is God) so that we can receive the eternal life that God has always wanted for us. In this view, the suffering and death of Jesus is not something ‘God does to Jesus’, but it is something God allows us to do to God so that we can experience in Jesus Christ the promise that our own sufferings and death are not the end.
The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus change the lens through which human suffering and death are to be viewed.
Catechism: On Jesus’ suffering and his redemptive death
Catechism: On the resurrection of Jesus
Original text by Shane Dwyer
Photo of St Damiano cross by James Coleman on Unsplash
Fr Anthony Mellor, 30 October 2019
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, 30 October 2019
30 October 2019