Suffering Beyond the Suffering

Friday afternoon…

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Matthew 27:50

 

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last

Mark 15:37

 

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46

 

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30


Sunday morning…

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Matthew 28:5-6

 

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.

Mark 16:5-6

 

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee

Luke 24:4-6

 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

John 20:1-2 


These passages give detail to the historical events surrounding the last moments of Jesus physical life and, conversely, to the discovery of his physical resurrection on the third day. If you are not familiar with the Biblical accounts surrounding the death of Jesus, I would encourage you to read the chapters and verses leading up to the events. Around the Easter holiday, Christians focus heavily on the physical sacrifice of Jesus and his subsequent bodily resurrection, in order to demonstrate that the great love of God extends even beyond the grave. That eternal life can be ours because Jesus bore the weight of our transgressions.

I have to admit, though… it troubles me that we equate the half-day of physical suffering Jesus endured to the weight of creation’s rebellion against the creator. We go into extravagant detail depicting every moment of those hours. Entire movies are devoted to the visual demonstration of the gruesome actions levied against an innocent man. Yes, Jesus death was excruciatingly painful. Yes, it was unfair, cruel, and unjust. Yes, the vast majority of creation will never physically suffer to that extent. But… it’s as if we have to over compensate the physical suffering of Jesus in these moments because in reality, other humans may have actually suffered more gruesome circumstances, for a longer period of time.

At the end of it, we step back and say, “See? Jesus is God in flesh, who is willing to sacrifice his life and share in our suffering.” And the entire time we neglect the very real, very imminent consequences of what Christ experienced on our behalf… separation from the father.

Jesus endured Hell.

In reality, the separation of Jesus from God the Father was infinitely worse than any physical pain one could ever endure. Even just a fleeting moment of this separation is enough to result in utter chaos and destruction.

Imagine for a moment that the God of the universe is holding together all that He spoke into being. Imagine all that has been so eloquently knit together… all that lives… all that moves… all that breathes… being sustained by the presence of God. Life itself… only possessing life because of God’s presence. Imagine Eden, with God’s marks and signature over all that existed.

And in a single fleeting moment… separation. Separation resulting from a human desire to be the sustainer of life. Separation caused by God relenting to the free will with which He created us. Separation that is quite literally God partially pulling back His pure and perfect sustaining hand in creation, allowing it to freely choose to recognize or reject its creator.

And in a single fleeing moment… that which was held together by an infallible God needed to be held together by fallible humanity. The dire consequences naturally flow out of this condition. Infinite life becomes finite life. That which was held in tact is no longer able to be sustained. Remove the threads from a garment, and the garment ceases to be. Such is our condition and world today. Suffering that extends far beyond the bounds of the physical realm.

Now imagine an existence with the COMPLETE ABSENCE of God…

Words are insufficient to describe this condition other than… Hell. NO hope. NO life. NO light. NO purpose. Not even the essence of peace. It is an eternity with nothing to grasp. If you can remember the most gut-wrenching sadness, depression, or heartbreak you have ever experienced… even that has the essence of and end… a flicker of light or life… if it didn’t, suicide would be the only option. I do not say that word lightly. The very real consequences of existence without God’s presence are utter darkness and  complete destruction of life.

Jesus experienced that moment… on our behalf. The flash of an instant devoid of God’s hand. THAT is what God came in Christ to abolish. Death are decay are no longer the consequences of separation if the gap is bridged by God. Life re-enters.


You might be experiencing a flicker of this absence this very moment. Please know that God bore that moment on your behalf already. You may feel as though no one sees the suffering or torment you are experiencing… the suffering BEYOND the suffering everyone observes in your life. These moments are real and raw, but they are not your destiny. For God resurrected His Son as a demonstration that death is overturned when His hand is allowed back in creation. There is ONLY eternal life in God’s full presence, and it is offered with the simple acknowledgement that our humanity cannot be the sustainer of our life. Only God can fulfill that role.

There is suffering beyond the suffering we observe. We are able to distinctly read of the tragic details of Christ’s death, yet the real torment of separation may go unnoticed. We should never assume to know the full suffering others might be experiencing. They may be fighting a battle in depths far beyond we can comprehend. But praise God that life is found beyond suffering.

Yes, Jesus suffered through Hell. But not without purpose. And not without the sustaining hand of the Father reviving a tarnished humanity. Imagine… a God willing to personally step in and experience the fleeting moments of existence without life, so all of creation would never have to experience them ever again.

Are you fighting a battle you were never meant to fight? Are you trying to sustain a life never intended to be sustained by your own effort? Freedom is a moment away. Acknowledge the life found in Christ, and I guarantee your life will never be the same.

 

In Christ,

Josh

Moon

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