Text of the Week: The Pain of Grief

Luke 23:24-25, 32-46

So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Questions

Where was Mary from the Last Supper through the crucifixion, how much did she witness?

How does empathy impact the Christian walk?

Reflection

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and typically we focus on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the celebration from the crowds around him. But there is a second traditional theme for the church this Sunday that of Jesus’ suffering. The Liturgy of the Passion, as it is known, takes the reader from the Last Supper through the Crucifixion, retracing the struggles of Jesus’ final hours. This Lent I have been focused on how Mary was pierced to her core during Jesus’ ministry and I cannot help but wonder how she experienced his final week. We focus on the crowds that cheered Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem but I doubt Mary was very exited to see her son riding at the head of a parade that was an open taunt to the Roman authorities. I doubt she would have seen Jesus’ popularity, I think she would have focused on the danger.

The crowd that followed Jesus saw someone standing up to the Romans, Mary saw she was losing her son. The pain and grief of Sunday could only have intensified during the week as Mary became aware of the growing tension between Jesus and the authorities. And then at some point on Friday morning Mary learns Jesus has been arrested and ultimately must stand by and watch as he dies. But the grief and pain does not end there, she must endure the fact that Jesus is utterly humiliated and his legacy is trashed among the community. This is the ultimate fulfillment of Simeon’s words. Loving Jesus and being part of his family mean that Mary had to endure the pain, insults, and suffering that Jesus endured. In a way being part of Jesus’ family meant entering his suffering with him.

This is empathy to endure a person’s grief and pain along with them. The incarnation is about (among other things) God empathizing with the pain and grief caused by sin. Jesus may not have sinned but he was touched by sin, he understood the wounds it causes and empathized with our hurt. During the suffering of Holy Week Jesus’ family might not have endured the insults, danger, and grief but they stood by and empathized with him. They entered his suffering in a way and they were transformed through it. Part of the Christian Journey is to enter into Jesus’ suffering so we can understand how sin impacted his life. It is easy to cheer because Jesus will stand up sin and injustice on our behalf, it is easy to act like the crowd (and at times we should) but we must also recognize what it cost Jesus and how that impacted his family. We should empathize with those who suffered, just like we should empathize with those who are suffering today. We should recognize how sin impacts the world around us, it is only when we are truly pierced by the grief of this world that we can fully enter into the Life that Jesus provides. It is only when we grieve like his family that we can appreciate the New Life Jesus offers us.

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