Some people laugh when they read about Jesus curing Peter’s mother-in-law because the next thing she was waiting on them. How convenient! But of course, Jesus was at it all day long with everyone he met on those dusty roads of Galilee, welcoming, lifting up, healing and curing. “For this have I come.”
The letter to the Hebrews tells us that “he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way”, and it goes on to say, “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
What a test he faced! The clearest demonstration of God’s attitude towards his whole creation, and to us humans in particular, is to be seen in Jesus sharing our suffering. As a Passionist, I learned long ago to preach long and loud about his suffering being greater than that of anyone who ever lived. Such comparisons miss the point.
I once found myself in a refugee camp surrounded by 400 men, and while a waited for the car that was to take me to a comfortable hotel, I looked around and saw that I was the only one with legs. Four hundred survivors of war. I will never forget the scene. Land mines had blown away their legs. Today children playing in the fields still lose limbs from forgotten 50-year-old landmines. There is suffering all around, to the child, to devastated parents, to the whole village. This sort of thing is just one of the cruel inventions of modern military technology. Closer to home, there are fires and floods, Covid and calamities of every kind. People are exploited, put down, and rejected.
Jesus was in the middle of the mess of life, right in the middle of the humiliation and the pain that are our lot, and to an extreme degree. He chose to be with us in our whole lives, in our dreams and in our joys, our loves and all our flourishing, as well as the rest of it too, the downside of our lives. God has become truly man. By his cross, he shows us how much God loves us.
Jeff Foale is an Australian Passionist living in Vietnam, a former New Guinea missionary with a passion for service of the poor and refugees and who loves life in all its forms and enjoys photography.