I often come across sentiments about the Lord Jesus Christ’s present suffering. The idea behind such a sentiment is that God wants people to come to Him. He pleads, he begs, He pulls out all the divine stops, but, alas, He largely fails. The end result: God is miserable.. Here is a Messianic Jewish view of God’s “pain”: Bob Mendelsohn (such an illustrious family name in the world of music and Jewish philosophy) is saddened by the “outright rejection [that] my Jewish people display towards our Messiah. It is painful to him (Jesus) and I sense it only a bit by comparison. He is so wonderful and loving and available, and for too long, we reject him. Without due consideration.” Mendelsohn’s “pain” of Jesus pales next to the descriptions others use to describe Jesus’ present suffering state. I shall describe some of these views. First, I describe the view of Blaise Pascal, which I shall use as the motif running through the subsequent views. Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) was a Jansenist. The Roman Catholic Church regarded Jansenism as a heretical movement, because it emphasised doctrines such as human depravity (people love themselves too much to love God – the God described in the Bible), salvation is all of God, and predestination (God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy). Here is Pascal: “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during that time.” (Pensees, Penguin books, 1966, p.313). The Bible does say that we must stay awake because we never know when the Master of the house will return, but it doesn’t say that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” I mentioned that Pascal was regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as a heretic. One thing Pascal and the Roman Catholic Church do agree on is the belief that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.” Here is a typical Roman Catholic description of how much God is suffering now. (I italicise key terms). “Does the God-man Christ continue to suffer in heaven? Pascal once wrote that “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world,” This is true in the sense that His Passion and death continue to be re-presented at every Mass and that He continues to suffer in His body, the Church. It is also true in that we call upon Christ to have mercy upon us (miserere nobis). This ongoing mercy or “misericordia” in its Latin root means to have “misery in the heart” for another (or others)… Since the hypostatic union [human nature joined to the divine nature) will never cease in Christ, we must believe that all that pertains to a true human nature (without sin) continues to exist in Christ. In His human nature, Christ continues to have misericordia.” Roman Catholicism teaches that Christ’s passion and death “continues to be re-presented at every Mass and that he continues to suffer in His body, the Church.” “Re-presented” means made present again – and again and again (at every Mass). If this teaching is correct, then it is logical to infer that every time there’s a Mass, Jesus Christ is sacrificed, which naturally involves suffering. I won’t go into any detail here on this doctrine because I deal with it elsewhere. Suffice is it to say that the tradition of the Mass clashes with the Bible, for it says “Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, He entered ONCE into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”(My emphasis). What I’d like to examine here is the writer’s “misericordia.” Many pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics would know that the term means “mercy.” The writer, however, takes us on an etymological journey from which he never returns. He informs us that misericordia consists of two ideas, “misery” and “heart.” That’s etymologically true, but the question is what does it mean now, how is it used now? Let’s have pity and enjoy the ride. There’s the Latin miserabilis, pitiable, from miserari, to pity, from miser, wretched. Our Roman Catholic writer has come to the end of his historical excavations, and also the end of my tether. “Misericordia” in anyone’s book does not mean – if language use means anything – “misery of the heart” but “pity of the heart.” God does not have misery of the heart; what He does have is mercy; “mercy on whom He desires, and hardens whom He desires (Romans 9:18). “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing moulded will not say to the milder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:19-24). Not at all a God who is miserable in His heart.
Here is another view. The book “Resurrection” (edited by Stanley E. Porter, Michael A. Hayes, David Tombs. T & T Clark International, 2004, p. 214) speaks of the ‘epistemology of pain’ involved in experiencing Jesus, where human suffering “mediates the continuing presence of the crucified in the risen Jesus.” The writers use Pascal’s citation: “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during that time.” The writers says this about the Jews: ”One group whose history has consistently expressed that passion [suffering] is the Jews…” The Apostle Paul, undoubtedly saw the future suffering of the Jewish people. (See Romans 9-11). Recall Bob Mendelsohn (at the beginning of this article), who was saddened by the “outright rejection [that] my Jewish people display towards our Messiah. It is painful to him (Jesus) and I sense it only a bit by comparison. He is so wonderful and loving and available, and for too long, we reject him. Without due consideration.”
My next and final example is Rowan Williams, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, who also quotes Pascal: “The cross, Williams says, stands while the world turns. So long as the world turns the cross is there. In the words of Pascal “Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world, we must not sleep during that time.” As long as the world is there, there is suffering, there is injustice, there is butchery.” Jesus does – in one sense – identify with human suffering. He makes this explicit when he says: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Matthew 25:35-40). We must keep in mind that Jesus is not saying that when you don’t feed a hungry person, He remains hungry and miserable in heaven. There’s nothing misty or mystical about it. What he is saying is that human beings show love to one another through kind deeds. And when we love, we imitate God, who loves us. Members in the “Body of Christ” the Church , suffer. This, however, does not mean that when someone is burned at the stake for his faith that Jesus also feels the flames. As Rowan Williams says, the cross is always there. It’s there for two reasons: to remind us of, first, the great sacrifice he made for those he has chosen out of the world, and, second, that he calls on believers to carry their own cross. The cross is not there to remind us that at present Jesus is suffering (for the lost) on the cross (in every Mass) or that he is suffering now in Heaven. It cannot be so, because Jesus is sitting in glory at the right side of the Father (metaphorically speaking of course). There is one thing He is definitely not doing; and that is hurting and thirsting for souls. “… observe how the great truth we are to learn is this: the knowledge of Jesus as having entered heaven for us, and taken us in union with Himself into a heavenly life, is what will deliver the Christian from all that is low and feeble, and lift him to a life of joy and strength. To gaze upon the heavenly Christ in the Father’s presence, to whom all things are subject, will transform us into heavenly Christians, dwelling all the day in God’s presence, and overcoming every enemy. Yes, my Redeemer, seated at God’s right hand-if I only know Him aright and trust Him as able to save completely-He will make me more than conqueror.” (Andrew Murray, “Holiest of all,” Oliphants, London, 1960, p. 65). (The ebook can be found here). Jesus does not suffer in his glorious state. He did all his suffering on earth. “It is finished/accomplished.” “Seeing, then, the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself also in like manner did take part of the same, that through death he might destroy him having the power of death — that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14)…For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people (Hebews 2:17). Andrew Murray (p. 81, “Holiest of all” see ) comments on verse 17: “His death accomplished for us what we never could, what we now need not do. And ver. 17 tells us that His being made Man was that He might be a High Priest in things pertaining to God; to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. All these expressions-suffering death, tasting death for all, bringing to nought the devil, making reconciliation for the sins of the people-refer to the finished work which Christ wrought, the sure and everlasting foundation on which our faith and hope can rest.” Jesus knows His sheep from eternity and all those the Father has given Him WILL come to Him. In John 6 (32-34), Jesus says: 32b “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” 41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “NO ONE CAN COME TO ME UNLESS THE FATHER DRAWS THEM, and I will raise them up at the last day.” In all our earthly suffering, indeed, in all our earthly life “the main point of what we have to say is this: We have such a High Priest, One Who is seated at the right hand of the majestic [God] in heaven, as officiating Priest, a Minister in the holy places and in the true tabernacle which is erected not by man but by the Lord” (Hebrews 8:1-2). I pray for all of us who may read this: “That the God of our Lord Jesus would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we may know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 1:17-22).