Monday, 2 April 2018

The Twelfth Station: Jesus on the cross; his mother and his friend

God is so vast it’s usual to say he is infinite. It’s therefore perhaps natural that we struggle to describe Him. Some descriptions work better than others: it’s useful to say that God is a spirit—we’ve not seen him though we can feel and encounter him. It’s more difficult to say ‘He’ because it suggests gender and loses value in proportion that we have unhealthy or painful associations with an earthly father-figure. The Bible says that God is a wind; God is truth, light, glory, and scores of analogies, which again may help … but some may not. How can ‘God is light’ mean anything to a person born blind? Scripture says that God is a consuming fire, which (in my experience) is a metaphor with which most of us struggle.
     One description in the Bible is better than others: the Scriptures say that God is love.
     Saying that ‘God is love’ has consequences. All of us have loved and been loved. Genuine love is a positive thing, so this choice of language says something both positive and attractive about God. Saying that God is love means that everything about God is so captured within the concept of love that an encounter with love means an encounter with God: an atheist in love is therefore encountering the God in whom he fails to believe. It also means that if a thing is not loving then God is not in it, which diminishes the concept of God being infinite, or at least redefines it.
     The Bible also says in a thousand ways that Jesus is God. That’s surely the whole point of the New Testament, for it shows what love looks like when lived from within a fully human life. In this way of thinking, a human life lived with God at its core will show God and that love will show itself; and that showing itself will be an expression of love.
     Jesus has been tried and sentenced. He’s been paraded and flogged, stripped and crucified. He is in agony of body, mind and spirit. He’s dying and knows he’s close to death. What does love do in such a situation? What does the God of love do? In the Bible, love is never a feeling but a doing word; it’s an action; it demonstrates itself.
     Genuine love is always willing to be vulnerable. Indeed, it’s difficult to love properly without being vulnerable because if you are strong it’s like wearing a suit of armour that prevents you feeling anything. And it’s difficult to think of anyone being more vulnerable that a man nailed to cross, naked, before his widowed mother. What does he do?
The God of love who is also God incarnate — Jesus — asks one of his best friends (a man he trusts implicitly) to look after his mother, to take her into his home, and to love her in his stead.

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