There are so many things I love about Jesus. And I could write them all down here, but I’m just going to write about this one thing: suffering.

I love that Jesus suffered.

From the very start, we know that his birth was steeped in controversy. Mary was pregnant before she married Joseph. The gossip surrounding that surely plagued Jesus in his early years. He didn’t come from a perfect family. And when kids don’t come from that little perfect family, they suffer. Trust me.

We know he was a refugee. We know Mary and Joseph had to flee for his safety in the same way tens of thousands of families do today from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. The Syrian crisis is the most massive humanitarian crisis since WWII.

And of course, in our own neighborhood, families from Central America flee to us for the same reason Joseph and Mary did — safety.

I don’t know about you but it’s weird to think of Jesus and being some refugee kid — but it’s a brute fact.

The scriptures fast forward to Jesus’ last three years on earth. And you want to talk about suffering? For starters, he walked around knowing he was going to be martyred. He was certain about it. He talked about it often. Again, I don’t know about you but being certain you are going to be murdered — that is suffering. 

In The Idiot, Dostoyevsky talked about the guillotine. He talks about the “spiritual suffering” of knowing you were going to die.

“But the chief and worst pain may not be in the bodily suffering but in knowing for certain that in an hour, and then ten minutes, and then in half a minute, and then now…the soul will leave the body and one will cease to be a man and that that’s bound to happen; the worst part of it is that it’s certain.”

Jesus walked around for a long time, certain he’d be murdered.

The shortest scripture in the entire Bible: Jesus wept.

The prophet Isaiah referred to the Messiah, Jesus, as “a man of many sorrows.”

My friend, Pete Wehner, wrote a piece in The New York Times today. He wrote about life as a Christian, given COVID-19, given how there will be no Easter miracle this year with churches packed with people. 

Pete is a real writer and one of the best people I know. 

He writes, “What those of us who are Christians do believe is not only that God entered a world filled with suffering but also that through the incarnation God sided with those who suffer and suffered himself. Jesus grew weary. He grieved. He wept. And in anguish at the Mount of Olives, just before he was betrayed, the Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus “prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

I’m not sure I could be a Christian if it wasn’t for the countless passages in scripture about suffering. 

I love that Jesus suffered.

I’m not sure I could be a Christian if it wasn’t for the fact that many of my spiritual heroes — Job, David, Solomon, Paul, Saint Augustine, Mother Teresa, and, yes, Jesus — spoke with no candy coating about their suffering. Grave suffering. Depression. Grief. Maybe it’s because of the trauma that I experienced in my life — the trauma I’m not yet prepared to write about. But I wrote about coming out of the closet on the limits of faith.

Sixteenth century St. John of the Cross spoke of the “dark night of the soul” — a deep feeling of being abandoned by God. “Both the sense and the spirit,” he writes, “as though under an immense and dark load, undergo such agony and pain that the soul would consider death a relief.”

We Christians must remember the great paradox of our faith: the greatest event, the crucifixion was the most evil event. In his dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and A Christian 12th century philosopher Peter Abelard writes, “The Lord Jesus Christ’s being handed over into the Jews’ hands is mentioned as being done by Jesus himself, my God the Father, and by the traitor Judas.”

Without God being murdered, there would be no resurrection. 

I get concerned when reformed churches basically fast forward through Holy Week to Easter. Not so with the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists. 

Nobody, even Christians, likes the notion of lament. But I love that Jesus suffered.

I’m all for Easter. I’m all for the joy and pastel colors and happy songs and all the “victory.” The historicity behind of resurrection is undeniable to any serious student of history. And it gives me great hope, 

But if I’m honest, I relate far more closely with the mystery, the pain, the sorrow: Good Friday.

I’m glad that Jesus could, too. 

I love that Jesus suffered.