Reflections on Holy Saturday III

caravaggio_01How does pausing to reflect on Holy Saturday help form a Christian worldview? Particularly, how do we form such a worldview in the face of the ‘open wound of suffering’? That is the task of the next two posts.

I hope this story will help. Its called The Long Silence.

At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly — not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
“How can God judge us?” “How can He know about suffering?” snapped a joking brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camps. “We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!”
In another group, a black man lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched for no crime but being black!” “We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till only death gave release.”
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred. “Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world?” “After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life.” they said.

So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate, a person from Hiroshima, and one from a Siberian slave camp. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: Before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God “should be sentenced to live on earth — as a man!”

But, because He was a god, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help himself.

Let him be born a Jew.
Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none will know who is really his father. Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and eliminating efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority.
Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled — let Him try to communicate God to humanity.
Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends.
Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.
Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing.
Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death with common thieves.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throng of people. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew……..God had already served His sentence.”

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4 Responses to “Reflections on Holy Saturday III”

  1. as i was reading this, i couldn’t hep but think of this sermon:
    http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2008/03/palm-sunday-sermon-lose-your-faith.html
    it’s something i’m trying to think thru – and although the ignominy suffered was great, is that what causes you to believe? that he suffered more? or more unjustly? or more valiantly?
    why do we insist on’t?

  2. Thanks Steve, I remember reading this in a McGrath book about a decade ago and being blown away by it.

  3. stephengardner Says:

    Thanks for your comments. Its a powerful story, also used in Stott’s ‘The Cross of Christ’, and one of the best evangelistic talks I’ve ever heard at an EU mission in 2005.
    Doug, thanks for the link. That was great reading. And thanks for your questions. I’m, likewise, thinking through this stuff. re the scandal of the cross; I’m not sure if that is the sole reason for why I believe in its power. But for the purposes of this series, I’m suggesting it helps us particularly with the problem of suffering. I’m going to flesh that out a bit more in the next post.

  4. […] All Things New  And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” « Reflections on Holy Saturday III […]

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