“If you are the Son of Man you ought to enjoy yourself. You should have no shortage of bread, no dread of the kingdoms of the world and their glory; you should live sumptuously, walk recklessly, reign despotically and painlessly.” That’s what the voice of this “world” said and continues to say but it’s the voice of the god of this world.
Christ reverses all this. He says it’s precisely because He is Son of Man that He is bound to suffer to feel as a personal hunger the world’s want of bread, to share as a personal burden the world’s subjection to human tyrannies. And though He stands now as Lord of All, the Truth He embraced remains true for those who are climbing to meet Him. It’s true for all those who seek His likeness; it’s true for all those who have committed themselves in faith to His redeeming adventure; it’s for all who seek to liberate rather than dominate.
This speaks (I believe) with a sharper edge to those who wield the power, whether in a family, a village, a city, a state or a nation. It speaks to religious leaders who wield the power in a congregation or a province. It speaks to anyone whose use of authority means that they and those they favor are protected, exempted from hurt, humiliation and disappointment. Such people eat bread while others are hungry and lord it over kingdoms filled with the voiceless and the helpless.
That understanding of power, that pagan exercise of authority (Luke 22:24-27) is present not only in the corridors of power where decisions are made that affect tens of thousands or tens of millions—that pagan exercise of power occurs where nurses or doctors mistreat or consciously neglect patients, where landlords torment and frighten vulnerable renters, where salesmen virtually extort from the ignorant who don’t know what they’re buying. Where any child is dominated by a mean-spirited father or mother, anywhere a husband makes his wife daily miserable, anywhere a child turns the screws on parents to grieve them sore, anywhere where life is made daily misery or anytime a young man or young girl uses the love another has for them as leverage to dishonor them or make them cry—there the worst face of paganism is grinning at us.
There is a suffering which the good alone can know, said George Matheson. There is a furnace which is only heated for the people of God, a den of lions which only awaits the holy. Not every one can weep over Jerusalem; that’s a Divine gift of tears (and who wants it?). Men said of Jesus, Let God deliver him if he is delighted with him! If he is good, why is he so burdened?
“But had He been less good He would have been less burdened. His purity made His pain; His tenderness made His tears; His selflessness made His sorrow; His righteousness made Him restless; His luster made Him lonely; His kindness made Him kinless; His crown made His cross. It was because He was the Son of Man He had nowhere to lay His head.” (Matheson)
All this was and is true of Jesus Christ and it was and is true of Him not because God arbitrarily foreordained that humans should suffer anguish. God purposed fullness of life for the human family but because He is who He is and because that kind of life can only be experienced in relationship with Him. When we turned from Him and let loose satanic power of evil we re-visioned His world and acted accordingly. We made ourselves gods and sought and seek as much independence from Him as is possible and all we’ve discovered is that while we might make good servants we make ugly, brutal and incompetent gods and lords. Those of us who gained power corrupted the entire structures and we seek to cure that corruption and cruelty with more corruption and cruelty. We fight evil with evil, slyness with lies, bitterness with bitterness.
And it was because God remained faithful to Himself and His glorious purpose that He came in and as Jesus Christ to rescue humans from the alienation and consequent suffering rising out of that alienation. The Incarnate One entered this chaotic and sinful human family according to God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge to share all the anguish endured by sinners at the hand of sinners (see Acts 2:23). None of it was accident; it was purposed by the redeeming God. The Son of God who is the Son of man purposed to suffer with and from and for and as humankind. That incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification reveals mesmerizing truths about the one true God and exposes the true nature of the world we created and do now sustain (it’s anti-God, anti-life and anti-humanity). The only hope of the world is God Himself—the God who has revealed Himself in and as the person of Jesus Christ.
In every place where leaders exercise power at the expense of those they lead, everywhere a family member generates misery that makes a home a prison, everywhere a financial conglomerate bleeds a little nation white, everywhere a self-centered power-holder insists on domination we see the spirit of the world and we see Jesus hanging on a cross.
In every place or heart where we see someone hurt, humiliated, deprived and still maintains his or her trusting response in and commitment to Jesus Christ we see the resurrected and glorified Son of God and Son of Man until He comes.
Though there is hurt that the entire human family can experience there are forms of pain and loss that only sensitive believers in God can experience but there are certain joys that only they can know and there are songs that only they can sing (Revelation 14.3, with 1-5).