Unwillingness to Suffer

jesus man of sorrows durerHad he only suffered, Jesus might still have been applauded as the Messiah.  All the sympathy and admiration of the world might have been focused on his passion.  It could have been viewed as a tragedy with its own intrinsic value, dignity and honour.  But in the passion Jesus is a rejected Messiah.  His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory.  It must be a passion without honour.  Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus.  To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men.  Suffering and rejection are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact an attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ.  It is Peter, the Rock of the church, who commits that sin, immediately after he has confessed Jesus as the Messiah and has been appointed to the primacy.  That shows how the very notion of a suffering Messiah was a scandal to the Church, even in its earliest days.  That is not the kind of Lord it wants, and as the Church of Christ it does not like to have the law of suffering imposed upon it by its Lord.  Peter’s protest displays his own unwillingness to suffer, and that means that Satan has gained entry into the church, and is trying to tear it away from the cross of its Lord.

Jesus must therefore make it clear beyond all doubt that the “must” of suffering applies to his disciples no less than to himself.  Just as Christ is Christ only in virtue of his suffering and rejection, so the disciple is a disciple only in so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifixion.  Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and therefore submission to the law of Christ which is the law of the cross.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, rev. ed., Macmillan: NY, p. 96.




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