“Any discussion of how pain and suffering fit into God’s scheme ultimately leads back to the cross.” Philip Yancey
Martin Luther, who in many ways initiated the Protestant Reformation, offers this moving meditation on Jesus suffering. And, as we turn to remember Jesus’s crucifixion today, on Good Friday, let us remember that the cross represented a shameful, four-letter word in Latin, crux. The word signified a death reserved for political traitors and villains and never for Roman citizens. Cicero’s Orations denounced both the reality of the cross and its usage by polite Romans. Death on cross was “the most cruel and abominable form of punishment”, and the very word “should be foreign not only to the body of a Roman citizen, but to his thoughts, his eyes, his ears.”
And now to Luther:
The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble. If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble. Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instill it.
The greater and the more wonderful is the excellence of his love by contrast with the lowliness of his form, the hate and pain of passion. Herein we come to know both God and ourselves. His beauty is his own, and through it we learn to know him. His uncomeliness and passion are ours, and in them we know ourselves, for what he suffered in the flesh, we must suffer in the spirit. He has in truth borne our stripes. Here, then, in an unspeakably clear mirror you see yourself. You must know that through your sins you are as uncomely and mangled as you see him here.
We ought to suffer a thousand and again a thousand times more than Christ because he is God and we are dust and ashes, yet it is the reverse. He who had a thousand and again a thousand times less need, has taken upon himself a thousand and again a thousand times more than we.
No understanding can fathom nor tongue can express, no writing can record, but only the inward dealing can grasp what is involved in the suffering of Christ.
Reflect on what the Cross of Christ means for you.