By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” – Mark 10:45
Suicide or Killed?
We are now in the period of Holy Week Celebration, a time when we deeply remember the death of the man Jesus of Nazareth more than two thousand years ago and try to discover meaning and implications for our daily life.
There are many ways to understand the meaning of Jesus’ death. Some would like to re-enact what happened on that fateful Friday and be crucified also. What is happening in Pampanga during Holy Week, for instance, is an example of this. People deeply believe that their sins will be forgiven and their illness will be healed if they would make themselves suffer like that of Jesus.
Others also think that there’s no need for them to suffer, because Jesus already suffered for them. Jesus died for our sins they say. Hence, Jesus is understood like that of a suicide bomber who would blow himself up for the sake of the people. This is how popular televangelists try to picture Jesus in their preaching.
Death as Consequence of Life
We have to understand Jesus’ death in relation to his life. Jesus was crucified by the powers-that-be. Crucifixion was a brutal and inhuman capital punishment for those who were accused of being rebels of the Roman Empire. It actually originated from the Persians. Roman authorities worked hand in hand with the Jewish elite. Obviously, both felt threatened by Jesus’ mission and ministry. That’s why we can safely say that Jesus’ death is the consequence of his life.
Perhaps, if Jesus did not heal the sick, forgive the sinners, preach good news to the poor, cast out evil spirits, and denounce the hypocrisies of the powers- that-be, he might have died a natural death due to old age. But no, Jesus did precisely those things that consequently caught the ire of the powers-that-be. The High Priest Caiaphas said “…it is better… to have one man die for the people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed” (Jn. 11:50).
God suffers with those who suffer
In and through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ we learn that God does not deal with the problem of suffering in this world by divine decree or intervention, but rather through participation and solidarity. For suffering is and remains part of the human experience, but the possibilities of life in the midst of suffering grow from the knowledge that in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God, too, has suffered unto death.
This is a far cry from the traditional understanding that God the Father gave his Son to die on the cross for the sake of the people which makes Him appear to be the number one child abuser. No, God has suffered and died with Jesus of Nazareth. It would make a lot of difference if we would come to realize that God is, indeed, with us even in times suffering.
Liberating Side of Jesus’ Suffering and Death
Jesus’ suffering and death has also a liberating side: It liberates people from oppression and exploitation by exposing and opposing the total bankruptcy and pretensions of the powers-that-be. What was really on trial in the trial, conviction, and crucifixion of Jesus was the whole system of Roman domination and oppression in Palestine.
That’s why Jesus said to his disciples, “…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free…” (Jn. 8:32).
Service to Humanity
After the resurrection, followers of Jesus began to interpret the death of Jesus as an extreme form of service to humanity, following the popular Jewish and Hellenic idea prevailing at that time: that the death of the martyrs and even of innocent children could assume a representative and redemptive character for sinners (Cf. 2 Maccabees 7).
Hence, Jesus’ said to his disciples: “… the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people” (Mk. 10:45). # nordis.net