Survivors and the Sufferings of Jesus
By Boz Tchividjian
This week I have found myself moved by how the sufferings of Jesus are tragically similar to the sufferings of so many who have been abused. These similarities are no coincidence and for some reason they have been a source of comfort to me during this important week in the Christian faith. Perhaps, you may find some comfort as well.
Failed promises: Survivors are frequently promised support from those who never follow through. In fact, it is often those same people who end up asking the hurting survivor, “Can’t you just move on?” Just hours before he denies even knowing Jesus, Peter promises Jesus, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus understands.
Betrayed: Over 90% of victims are abused by someone they know and trust. Someone who has spent a lot time with the victim and shared many life experiences. Someone who nobody expects would betray and abuse. Judas spent three years with Jesus and had shared some amazing moments with him and the other disciples. Nobody expected Judas to betray Jesus. Jesus understands.
Abandoned: Survivors are often abandoned when those they hope will walk alongside them fall asleep or flee. This leaves them alone and all too often in the hands of those who will inflict more pain. On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus asked three of his closest disciples to come with him to pray. Instead of praying, they fell asleep. When Jesus needed them most, they were focused on themselves. If that wasn’t bad enough, a few hours later they ran away from Jesus when Judas arrived with the soldiers. Jesus understands.
Abused and mocked by the Church: I have encountered too many survivors who have been dehumanized by a Church that mocks them and demands their silence. After being arrested, Jesus was immediately taken before Caiaphas the high priest. In the place where one might hope that the Son of God would be loved and served, Jesus was mocked, slapped, spit upon and silenced. Jesus understands.
Denied: Survivors often discover that family and friends are often the ones who refuse to believe them and all too often walk away not wanting much to do with them. One of the darkest moments of Scripture is when Simon Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The same man who lived with Jesus, fought for Jesus, and promised Jesus he would never leave, actually cussed out the person who dared associate him with Jesus. Jesus understands.
Injustice: As a prosecutor, I encountered too many cases where hurting individuals never found justice in a system that fraught with failure. I know a survivor who years after the abuse finally found enough strength to report the perpetrator to the police. She was recently informed that this offender would not be prosecuted. This is no different than two thousand years ago. Is there any question that the justice system failed Jesus? An innocent man was sentenced to death by a governor who had no concern for justice. Jesus understands.
Offender embraced and the innocent sacrificed: Time and time again individuals who have been accused of abuse or covering it up are supported and embraced, while the lives and souls of their victims are sacrificed. This is no different than when the crowds welcomed and embraced the release of a “notorious prisoner” named Barabbas in exchange for the sacrifice of the innocent Son of God. How many Barabbas’s has the Church welcomed and embraced in exchange for the sacrifice of innocent souls. Jesus understands.
Suffering in the darkness: I mentioned in my last post that there are so many trapped in the dark places of the Church. These survivors have been ignored and discarded by a Church focused so much on itself that it fails to recognize and love them. They are left alone in this darkness to die. As Jesus hung on the tree, a thick darkness covered the land until his death. Here was Jesus dying alone in the dark, ignored by a world so fixated upon itself that it failed to recognize and love the Son of God. Jesus understands.
Jesus walked the dark road of abandonment, isolation, and deep suffering. He understands. He grieves. He cares. He took this upon Himself fueled by an indescribable love. A love that breathes new life into hearts that have been sacrificed and discarded by the darkness. A love that brings freedom. A love that never fails even when nothing makes sense. As I write this, I weep thinking about all those who feel so lost and alone on a dark road that seems to have no end. You are an amazing soul and are not alone.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never make you an empty promise.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never betray you.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never abandon you.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never abuse or mock you.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never deny you.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never be unjust.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never sacrifice you.
You are loved and cherished by the One who will never leave you alone in the darkness.
You are loved and cherished by Jesus who will never let you go.
Good Friday is a difficult but beautiful reminder that new life and hope are on the way.
Boz Tchividjian is the founder and executive director of GRACE.
This article was originally published on April 18, 2014 for the Religion News Service (RNS). Used with permission.