Why? – Br. David Vryhof
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Why this senseless violence?
Why is this good man stripped and beaten, nailed to a cross, and made to die? Why? What is it that prompts this kind of horrible, intentional violence against a man who went about preaching a gospel of love for God and for one’s neighbor,
who touched and healed people who were sick and suffering, who bestowed dignity on the forgotten and alienated?
Why put him to death??
How does a man who welcomed children,
who forgave sinners, who reached out to social outcasts,
who touched the sick and infirm,
who spoke and listened with respect to foreigners and to women and to tax collectors and to so many other marginalized people – who came not to be served, but to serve….
how does this man become the target of a hateful mob, and the innocent victim of its political and religious leaders?
It makes no sense.
Why do people like Jesus pose such a threat to the powers that be?
Why do they prompt so much resistance and fear that the powerful feel the need to destroy them, and to crush any who dare follow them? Why?
We see it again and again. Those who speak truth to power,
those who notice the poor and suffering and who respond with compassion,
those who speak words that give life to the downtrodden and weak,
are so often despised, maligned, persecuted, roughed up, even killed. Why?
Remember that an assassin’s bullet cut short the life of the U.S. President who had the courage to put an end to slavery.
Another pierced the body of the great spiritual leader of India whose non-violent resistance helped win his nation’s independence.
Still another shattered the face of the most prominent leader of the civil rights movement in this country.
Another felled a popular archbishop in El Salvador who spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture.
Why? Why? Why?
Isaiah speaks of a prophet-servant who comes to teach people about God.
Isaiah says this teacher is faithful and not rebellious. He is someone who knows “how to sustain the weary with a word.” Wouldn’t you like to have a teacher like that?
And yet, somehow he becomes the object of scorn and ridicule:
They strike him; they pull out his beard; they verbally insult him, they spit on him. He has no one to help him; and cries out to God to vindicate him.
Why do those who speak the truth, who champion the cause of the poor, who offer hope to the downtrodden, so often become the targets of insults, persecutions, and violent attacks?
We wouldn’t expect it to be this way, but so often it is. It simply is. Why?
Perhaps it makes sense, then, for God’s Servant to enter into the dark rhythms of the human condition; perhaps it’s the only way they can be challenged and undone, once and for all. Perhaps this is the only way sin’s hold on us could be broken, the only way the world could be set right.
Perhaps God knew this. Perhaps only God could know this, because the rest of us would have met violence with still more violence. Perhaps God recognized that the only way to right this terrible cycle of wrong was to go straight into it and unmake it from the inside out.
This is a profound mystery. “God proves his love for us,” St Paul writes to the Romans, “in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) “God so loved the world,” John tells us, “that he gave his only begotten Son…” (Jn 3:16). Gave him to be “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). “Surely he has borne our sins and carried our sorrows… “
“He was wounded for our transgressions,” Isaiah tells us, “he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:4-5)… “We know love by this,” First John reminds us, “that he laid down his life for us…” (I Jn 3:16). He is the Good Shepherd. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11).
“In this is love,” remarks the author of First John, “not that we loved God but that [God] loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I Jn 4: 9-10). Sent him straight into the deepest, darkest, most terrifying depths of our sin-sick world; straight into the hands of God’s enemies and all the forces of evil. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). “The light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not – [could not] – overcome it” (Jn 1:4-5).
This is the message of the Gospel. This is our Good News. That God, out of his great love, sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (Jn 3:17). We walk with him this week, straight into the dark maze of human sinfulness; into denial, betrayal, abandonment, grief and death; because this is the path that will lead to life.
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A powerful reminder of the love God had and has for us. This is especially poignant as it comes on the heels of another mass shooting in the US and the violence against Coptic Christians in the Middle East.
thank you for the depth, and the clarity of your message. how sorrowful, yet how redeeming.
And yet we continue on the same path of violence 2000 years later. We continue to ridicule those who have compassion for others less fortunate who try to help them. I don’t understand people who claim to be Christians yet feel that they have no obligation to others in our society who are less fortunate.
And I think Jesus modeled this for us, that as long as marginalization and oppression persist, as long as one person gains from another’s hardship, we are called to walk with Jesus into the dark maze, trusting in that thin light that shines in the darkness.
…”because this is the path that will lead to life”…What a wonderful, much needed message for today.
I often wonder why we see “man’s inhumanity to man” every day in terrorism, in war, in starvation, in hopelessness of others. It is so wrong. I believe it is a lack of Love, a lack of Kindness. It is fear and hate that that causes these things to happen.
Oh my. How is it so? To be loved to this extent…thank you Br. Vryhof for speaking to this great ‘Why’.
Brother, thank you for such a touching and wonderful message that helps us to understand our world. I wish to tell you about my prayers being answered. I have prayed for a year that my husband’s faith would deepen and that he would go to church services with me! I have been patient and silent – just waiting. God has blessed my John and now his faith is stronger plus he takes me to Church and actually likes The Church of the Good Shepard in Asheboro, NC. I am so happy!
Praise the Lord! Thank you for sharing this. It gives encouragement to me to continue to pray for people close to me to come to Christ.
Understanding suffering is so difficult. The suffering of people, the suffering of creation, the suffering of God. Today’s message is a helpful step in our journey of understanding.
Beautiful, deep, provocative message. This sermon is a keeper for me–on paper and in my heart. Thank you for a very meaningful message to begin the internal work of Holy Week.
A loving message. Thank you.
Br. David, Once again your insights and way with words lodge in my mind and heart.
What a meaningful sermon, what I call true spirituality. Thank you, Br. David Vryhof!