April 21, Maundy Thursday

April 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented…

-Hebrews 11.37-

The author of Hebrews continues to speak of  contemporary events and persecutions taking place within the church. Just as imprisonment had been a reality for some people within this community of faith, martyrdom occurred during this time as well. It is possible that these veiled references are meant to bring to mind the martyrdom of the Apostles; legend holds that James the Lesser was stoned. Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot  were cut into pieces; James the son of Zebedee and Bartholomew were beheaded. The second part of this verse alludes to loss of finances and social standing that people suffered as a result of their faith in Christ. These Christ-followers became outcasts for the sake of the Gospel.

For the original audience of the letter, these were recent events that took place in the world in which they lived. These events did not fall under the category of “history;” they were firmly located in the present. Yet, the author of Hebrews casts these sufferings and deaths as part of the story of faith.

Today, we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the day on which Christ celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples before he was arrested and crucified; we refer to this event as the Last Supper.  After the meal, Christ was betrayed into the hands of religious leaders who had plotted to kill him. In the hours that followed, he was beaten, abused, and mocked before being executed.

We may want to ignore the part of the story of faith that mentions suffering. However, as we look at the example of Christ, we see that we cannot. He suffered greatly, though he could have rejected such trials; however, Christ knew that in order for the work of God to be accomplished in the world, he would have to suffer. Suffering is part of the story; and so, suffering becomes part of our story.

As we strive to follow Christ and be agents of redemption in the world, we can expect suffering and opposition in various ways. At times, we will suffer so that God’s will may be accomplished in our lives or in the lives of others. While this is not a pleasant thought and an even less pleasant experience, we can look to Christ and know that we are living in his example as his ambassadors. Suffering is another way of becoming like Christ. Over the next few days, we will ponder the sufferings of Christ through his torture and death, as well as the examples that the author of Hebrews gives us. Through these, we see that suffering is part of the Christian life.

As we journey through Lent together, may we not be afraid of suffering.

“Dear Lord, this is not an easy subject to embrace; yet, it is my experience as a person and a Christian that suffering exists and has been part of my life. Please use these experiences to build greater faith and trust in you. Strengthen me so that I may stand firm in times of suffering; forgive me for the times when I have run from suffering and have rejected what you were trying to accomplish through that. Amen.”

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