Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).
Good Friday is good, but it isn’t pretty, Jesus, who was innocent of any crime, was executed in a horrific manner that left him mutilated and disgraced. It’s an image that makes us uncomfortable. Good Friday and the image of Jesus suffering on the cross is also a consolation: a reminder that God didn’t just suffer for us, he suffered with us.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).
God knows the grief of being betrayed, the injustice of an innocent person being found guilty, the pain of betrayal, the loneliness of suffering alone, being abandoned by everyone. God profoundly knows our pain, because God suffered it in the person of Jesus Christ.
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)
This is not empathy. The Cross of Christ is an image of the eternal God, who grieves with the grieving and suffers with the suffering until the day when every tear is wiped from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Good Friday is a God given opportunity, however uncomfortable, to seek God’s face in our suffering.
Where do we get our beliefs?
Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology.
From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ.
Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles.
I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.