The Passion of Christ

One of the Bible verses summarizing the entire Christianity could be as follows:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

We often wonder how God loves us and who He is. Within the “prison” of our consciousness, these questions seem elusive if not agnostic as part of antinomy. In reality, we can’t see Him in the way that we see everyone else. He is in the realm of I AM THAT I AM.

On the other hand, the New Testament is quite eloquent on how God loves and who He is. As John 3:16 states, God loves us and the world even to the “extent” that He gave us His only begotten Son.

And, the implication of this “extent” is tremendous. In the Gospels, this kind of message implies that eternity (God) manifests itself in temporality (His begotten Son). Transcendence (Heaven) embodies itself in the domain of spacetime (Earth).

In our contemplative prayer and meditation, we often sense that God is “too far and too near” to recognize Him in our consciousness alone. Other than the realm of I AM THAT I AM, we can never find ways to see Him in our consciousness. If ever there could be one thing, then we could scarcely articulate one attribute of God in this realm, which could be the very contemplation that God is too far and too near to see Him.

It is an ultimate paradox that eternity reveals itself in temporality. Heaven discloses itself on earth. God is as far as heaven; at the same time, his begotten Son is as near as the very earth with us. Thus, Jesus started his mission by proclaiming:

From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 4:17

In our repentance, we see heaven is indeed at hand on earth. It is too far; at the same time, too near. We can’t see God and how He loves us unless and until we repent. We can never see His will unless and until we stop being our selfish willfulness.

In Lord’s Prayer, therefore, Jesus taught us the following steps as to how to pray.

After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:9-10

Who is God on earth and in heaven? Jesus tells us that we call Him our “Father.” Is it surprising and revolutionary? Yes, it is, and it was in his days. People could call Abraham their father, but not to the extent that they call God their Father.

However, Jesus kept calling God as his Father and suggested us to do the same. In those days, even calling God in His name sounded blasphemous. Nevertheless, according to Jesus, we can even pray by addressing God as our Father. God is too far and yet as near as our Father and His begotten Son.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10

Therefore, God’s will is not only in heaven but on earth as well. The kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand. His will is too far, at the same time, too near. We can’t see it unless and until we repent and surrender our selfish willfulness. Thus, we rely entirely on His will to abide by Him at every moment of our lives. Each day is His gift, so does each meal that we receive. So, we pray:

Give us this day our daily bread.

Matthew 6:11

And, with our selfish willfulness and attachments, we can’t forgive anyone, even including ourselves. Only through repentance, we surrender such unforgivable selves. Once we are no longer full of ourselves but give up and diminish ourselves into God’s will alone, what we see is His will alone. There should be no longer such things as forgivable or unforgivable, but God alone is. So, we pray:

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Matthew 6:12

What is His will on earth and in heaven?

As mentioned above, God loves us all and the world even to the “extent” that He gave us the only begotten Son. What does it mean? Why does He had to give His only begotten Son to love us all and the world?

That is because God’s love should be “perfect” in heaven and on earth. What does it mean that love should be perfect? It means that His love should also be too far and too near as the complete manifestation as God’s love. In it, we recall another verse that summarizes the entire Christianity:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

His begotten Son means, in the words of John the Baptist, the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Why does the Son become the Lamb of God?

God loves us all and the world to the “extent” that He gave us His only begotten Son, that is indeed the Lamb of God. That is to say; the Son should be the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption to reconnect Heaven with the Earth, where we see our lives often as the cause of sufferings.

So, what is God’s love?

Is it a kind of “powerful” love that He sent us the “superhero” as His representative who can save us all from the sufferings and defeat all the evil ones our egos see as our enemies? And because of His power, God found it so easy to love and save us from the situation where our selfishness and ignorance are often the causes of all sufferings?

I don’t think so.

Because of God’s perfect love, on the contrary, God needed to be so vulnerable that He could experience all the sufferings that we all struggle in one way or another with ourselves because of our selfish ignorance.

God is too far in the sense that He is perfect in heaven. At the same time, God is too near because He should be vulnerable with the ignorance that we see life is suffering, even to death.

How does it possible?

That is why God gave us His only begotten Son as the Lamb of God for His complete empathy to understand our ignorant miseries and hardships. We can see them from the following statement of the Apostles Creed.

  • I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
  • and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
  • Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
  • He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
  • He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
  • I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

God, who is too far from us, in a way has to be “fully human” to be too near to us to experience all the things we see, saying life is suffering, including the fear of death, even the despair that we lost God and our faith completely.

That is why Jesus painfully cried out on the Crucifixion at the very moment of his death:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46

Although his cry was citing Psalm 22, which eventually ends as praising God, Jesus needed to suffer from the fear of death, even to the extent of the despair that he lost God and his faith. Thus, the Jesus was able to put himself on our shoes up to the hell.

Are you in the hell? Even in this selfish ignorance, Jeusus is suffering with you, saying God loves us all.

We also are the same message in Paul’s Epistle to Philippians as follows.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

The Passion of Christ is that of Jesus himself. The word “passion” is from the Latin verb passus sum, which means I have suffered. In the Holy Week, we reflect on the suffering of Jesus Christ before and during the Crucifixion and the Resurrection on the Ester Sunday.

Image by congerdesign 

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