There are times when we, like the Pharisees in today’s text, want to ask Jesus questions. Our questions usually do not have to do with the source of his authority. The things we question generally stem from the fact that we recognize his authority but wonder about how that authority is used. Our questions are not generally of the “what” variety, but rather gravitate more toward the “why.”
If I had a dollar for every time that someone asked me “why did God allow this to happen?” I could take an early retirement. There are plenty of horrific things that befall the innocent and helpless people in this world. There are injustices that point out the inequities and unfairness of life. There are unforeseen natural disasters like hurricanes, earth quakes and tsunamis that can take the lives of hundreds and thousands. There are droughts that can leave entire nations without food and water. People are displaced by war and tribal conflicts and forced to live in primitive refugee camps. Some people are martyred for their faith.
Good people see these things and wonder why a God who is sovereign over all allows such things to happen to others, or to themselves. Where is God when these people need him the most? Where is God when we need him the most? Disasters and wars do not differentiate between the righteous and the unrighteous, or between the guilty and the innocent. Why is such suffering allowed by our God?
There is no way to give anyone a complete and satisfactory answer to such questions. There are trite answers that are designed to make us feel better, but cannot truly answer the questions. When God answered Job’s similar questions from the whirlwind, Job was told that such things are beyond human understanding. As threads in the tapestry of God’s created order, it is impossible for us to understand the entire pattern of the tapestry, or to fully understand the mind of the weaver.
There are however some things that we should take into consideration. As Christians we know that we live in a fallen world. Things are not as God intended them to be. We also believe that one day all of creation will be redeemed and all things will be restored. However, this is not that day, and we live by faith as fallen people in a fallen creation. Our present position would be hopeless were it not for God coming to us in the midst of his own creation in the person of Jesus Christ. Were we not fallen and sinful creatures there would have been no need for a savior.
This is Holy Week, when we remember and commemorate the saving grace of God that leads to the cross of Jesus Christ and to the empty tomb of the resurrection. This week we will remember and contemplate the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word “Passion” comes from the Latin word passio, which means suffering and submission. Jesus Christ, although innocent, suffered injustice and horrible abuses. He was eventually nailed to a cross, where he died.
While there is no satisfactory answer to the question of human suffering, know this: because of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, God completely understands the suffering of the innocent. When we are suffering the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” we have a suffering God who understands and stands with us. There are times we find ourselves weeping during the darkest nights of the soul, and ask “Where is God?” We can know that God is right there beside us, weeping with us for His fallen world. It is a world that will ultimately be redeemed because of the cross of Jesus Christ.