January 11, 2011

Evil & Suffering XXIV: Jesus: The Suffering Servant-Part I

In the end, even after all of the work on my thesis I believe I may have come full circle. Like Job I cannot offer explanations or justifications for what God does with His creation. He is sovereign and I am not. He is omnipotent and I am not. He has His reasons and unless He makes them evident to me or reveals them to me I will not know why He does what He does. Nor will I question what He does. Frankly, questioning God is not what this paper was about. If I have dispelled anything by writing this paper I have dispelled the myth that there is an easy answer to explaining evil and suffering. I know what the Bible tells me and I can only obey and adhere to God's statutes. Many of those in this postmodern, humanistic and secular world would call me foolish and backwards among other things but I challenge any of their worldviews to offer a more comprehensive and sound explanation than the one I am about to expound on for the existence of evil. Evil in and of its nature is an aspect of the spiritual realm so only a spiritual explanation will suffice to explain it. To try to explain away suffering which has its roots in evil can only be explained in like manner. Both have their roots and source in the Fall in Genesis but since then has been used providentially by God to move His purposes along and manifest His will...to His glory.

What I can say with certainty is this. We as Christians are to be as Christ-like as possible which includes the need to humble one’s self to the point of death. To be able to do this we need to have the mind of Christ. Our only source for the mind of Christ to reveal itself to us in a structured and regimented form is the Bible. If we are truly to know Christ we need to learn of it from the Bible. So I guess we need to understand how our individual situations and are tied to our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.

I know from a theological standpoint why evil and suffering exist in our realm of existence and that the underlying purpose is to bring glory to God just as Christ did. Paul said that not only should be rejoice in the hope of the glory of God but “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:2-5). We also saw in the Kenosis of Philippians 2:5-11 a supreme example of suffering for God’s glory.

Jesus Christ the very Son of God came to this world to suffer.

The prophets even told us in advance of the need for the Messiah to suffer. Who are we to question our suffering in light of this fact? It is in the verses of Isaiah 53 that we begin to see the paradox in its most lucid form. Does it totally make sense? Not really. Can suffering and evil ever really make sense? I have to believe good men suffer and endure evil because it all leads to God’s, and their greater glory. Since He is all-powerful and all-loving, the logical conclusion is that in this process of being brought low through tribulation and suffering/pain is to eventually exalt the One/one that suffers. It is in this humanly irresolvable paradox that we begin to sense and approach the divine and most holy aspects of the Lord because it is only through Him that something like this can make sense. When we try and sanctify ourselves in this life we do so by trying to mimic as closely as possible the behavior of our Savior, the Son. We attempt to become as Christ-like as we can in our lifetime as He is the closest in form/shape to our being (human). To try and make ourselves more like Christ/God we are trying with God’s assistance to be more holy, no easy task even with the Holy Spirit as our helper and Christ as our intercessor with the Father.

I mean…think about that for a minute.

Jesus knew all the suffering and temptations known to man and endured them all. He was then buried. To prove the all-powerfulness of God, the Father raised Him on the third day as the first fruits of the Resurrection to show those that came after Him and believed what was in store for them if they would just “run the race in a way in which to win”.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” ~Isaiah 53:3-12

We see this elaborated on even more by the graceful author of Hebrews when he describes Christ’s sufferings, His purpose here on earth and what it accomplished.

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise." And again, "I will put my trust in him.” And again, "Behold, I and the children God has given me." Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” ~Hebrews 2:10-18
It was only through Jesus’ suffering that we can even have salvation. It is through the “crushing” of Christ and Christ allowing Himself to be “crushed” that we could have the possibility of eternal life. In our becoming like him we share in His death but we also share in His life (eternal). I believe the key to understanding theodicy is firmly rooted in the cross of Christ, Christ’s suffering and the Crucifixion. When we emulate God we become likened to God through sanctification and a process of continuing holiness. When we try to be like God we glorify Him. This is as close to a coherent and lucid answer that this finite and sinful human mind can come up with to rationalize and reconcile the existence, nay, the need for suffering and evil in this world. To pursue this any further would only having me repeating myself ad-nauseum and possibly contradicting myself.

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