The Apocalyptic Sufferings of Christ
At the centre of Christian faith is the history of Christ. At the centre of the history of Christ is his passion and his death on the cross. We have to take the word ‘passion’ seriously in both its senses here, if we are to understand the mystery of Christ. For the history of Christ is the history of a great passion, a passionate surrender to God and his kingdom. And at the same time and for that very reason it became the history of an unprecedented suffering, a deadly agony. At the centre of Christian faith is the passion of the passionate Christ. The history of his life and the history of his suffering belong together.1 They show the active and the passive side of his passion.
In earlier times, the active passion of Christ which led him into those sufferings was often overlooked. ‘The Man of Sorrows’ became the prototype of dumb submission to an unhappy fate. Today people prefer rather to overlook the suffering which is part of every great passion. To be painlessly happy, and to conquer every form of suffering, is part of the dream of modern society. But since the dream is unattainable, people anaesthetize pain, and suppress suffering, and by so doing rob themselves of the passion for life. But life without passion is poverty-stricken. Life without the preparedness for suffering is superficial. The fear of passion has to be surmounted just as much as the fear of suffering if life is to be really lived and affirmed to the point of death.
Here we shall take the phrase ‘the sufferings of Christ’ as an epitome of the theology of the cross we shall be developing. Like passio in Latin and passion in English,in Greek has the double meaning of intense feeling or desire, and suffering. The