Friday, April 15, 2011

The Agony of the Son, the Agony of the Father

today's Gospel rading for Holy Communion from the RCL is John 10.31-42

    spring dawn
      ~navy blue sky
        a curl of moon

At this time of year, as we dig deeper into Passiontide, it is difficult for me not to think of Jesus' mother. What must it have been like for her, not only hearing the stories of what her son was doing, but also being told about the growing opposition to him? Knowing that there were people out there who wanted to kill him can't have been easy for her. What must it have been like for Jesus, knowing the suffering that he must cause her?

And what of the Father? We know the agonies of anticipation Jesus suffered in the garden. Jesus said that he and the Father were one. That means that the sufferings of the Son were also the sufferings of the Father. This gives a different perspective on the Atonement, the way in which God was making us at-one with him through Christ. I've never bought into the penal substitution model of the Atonement, the idea that the suffering of death of the Son was in some way required by the Father. It was something that had to happen - this is something that they both knew and accepted. But I don't think it was something that the Father demanded of the Son for himself. Christ's suffering and death was consequent on his coming into the world. But this was something they accepted as being a necessary part of the Atonement.

I don't think I've ever read anything anywhere as the suffering of the Father as being part of the story. Perhaps somewhere a wise theologian is chuckling gently at my foolishness for thinking this. Perhaps. But I think the idea that the Father suffered also through his oneness with his Son deepens the graciousness of God's action in sending the Son into the world. And gives us all the more reason, as we go deeper into Passiontide, to attempt in our own poor way to try to enter into the sufferings of Christ for ourselves. 

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