Wed Quote - N.T. Wright - Jesus doesn't give an explanation for the pain and sorrow of the world. He comes where the pain is most acute and takes it upon himself. Jesus doesn't explain why there is suffering, illness, and death in the world. He brings healing and hope. He doesn't allow the problem of evil to be the subject of a seminar. He allows evil to do its worst to him. He exhausts it, drains its power, and emerges with new life.
Wed Thought -
'I can't stand pain,' Daffy Duck once said, 'It hurts me.'
The english translation of our verse for the day softens the emotional impact of what Jesus experiences when he sees the widow mourning the loss of her son. Our translation says, 'his heart went out to her,' but the greek doesn't refer to the heart. Instead it refers to the bowels, the guts. Jesus has a sharp stabbing pain in his stomach when he sees the widow weep. Other translations at least say that Jesus is 'moved by compassion.' In latin compassion means 'to suffer with.' This is the challenge of today's verse. It refers to pain and suffering. More, it refers to the choice to suffer pain voluntarily with another.
On Monday and Tuesday we pondered the trustworthiness of Jesus's authority. We can trust Jesus because his authority is exercised as relief for the suffering. Today we dive a bit deeper and discover that the source of Jesus's authority isn't power but instead, pain. This shouldn't be news to us I suppose. We look back to the description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, 'he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities...' and see Jesus. In Philippians 3 Paul would write, 'I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering.' But still I think it comes as a shock. It is perhaps more pleasant to focus on the power of Jesus to heal and create. To consider that the source of that power is pain and suffering is not as pleasant to consider. But it is important for us to consider.
That Jesus's power finds its source in his intimate engagement with pain and willingness to share in suffering is important. It is important because what the early church believed that Jesus was doing, Jesus is beginning a new creation. And this creativity is powerful. Powerful, as we have seen in healing the sick and even raising the dead. Powerful, as Mary sang, because the humble are raised and rulers brought down. Jesus is making the bold claim that the creation is deeply broken, but even more deeply the good that God declared and he has come to undo what is twisted and fractured so as to replace it with the 'good' that God intended. Too often that kind of power, to resist evil and create justice is expressed and enacted through threat and violence. We assume that great strength is necessary for that kind of creation to come into existence, for that kind of power to have effect. But Jesus does not exercise that kind of power. His is a power rooted in the pain and suffering. New creation doesn't come from being stronger and more powerful, but from being able to create from within weakness and vulnerability. This is the story we read this past sunday, the story we celebrate during Holy Week and Easter. Compassion isn't a Christian virtue then, because it is simply nice or it feels good to be caring. It is to the contrary the only way that the reign of God grows in our world. Jesus's power is trustworthy then, because it is rooted in weakness and vulnerability. We participate in the inauguration of God's reign, not through power, influence or strength or will, but through vulnerability and weakness.
Wed Study - 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Philippians 2:6-11
Wed Prayer - Show me today, Lord Jesus, the way of humility. I want to protect myself. I want to be strong. But your strength is made perfect in weakness. The problems of the world so vast and the influence of injustice so strong, that I simply want to ignore it all and hide. But you have called your disciples to be aware of the suffering of the world and more than aware, to take our share of it. You promise that your reign comes when the vulnerable gather together and share their burden in your name. So walk with me humbly through my day. Make me aware of the struggles of others. Provide with me the strength to help them carry their load.