Lesson 19: The Passion Narrative as Love Story

The Passion of ChristHoly Week and Easter highlight the importance of a Christian narrative. Christians around the world observe these sacred times by participating in a story that has changed lives for 2000 years.

Of course, there will be attempts to explain what has happened and is happening by referring to theological doctrines. The Church has continually tried to reduce these stories into dogmas that elicit belief. However, she has never been able to come up with one that has been accepted by the whole community. That should not surprise us. I once quickly counted 10 atonement theories throughout the New Testament. We find a need to work on reasonable explanations; however, in the end, Paul says it best when he proclaims that this is simply a love story.

If that is the case, we want to spend most of our time participating in the community’s telling of this story that is so critical in defining who God is and who we are. We bring clarity best by simply pointing out features of the narrative.

Certainly, our first task is to make clear that the Passion Story and the Resurrection narratives are inherently bound together. The Risen Christ will always bear the marks of the Crucified Jesus. As Martin Luther warned, to tear the stories apart is to proclaim a theology of glory that destroys the real message. When we act as if Easter has totally cancelled out Good Friday, we end up with a prosperity gospel that defines success by worldly standards.

Our story has always been that God hears the cries of his people and comes in love to save them from some form of political oppression, economic exploitation, and religious establishment. God responds to the sufferings, not the sins of his people. God acts on Easter, because he hears Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” That cry is shouted by a righteous person tortured and killed by an alliance of political, economic, and religious powers who are attempting to eliminate God’s voice from their world.

As John discerned, the story describes God as love and his people as beloved (I John 4: 7-21). Love here is radical and unconditional. This time it is Paul who discerns Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” implies God comes to save while we are still weak, sinners, and enemies (Romans 5: 6-11). It is true that the Passion Story pictures God in solidarity with all who suffer in this world; however, it is also true that most of us are pictured as followers who have abandoned the righteous one. And we are forgiven as well.

The story is an extraordinary affirmation of creation. God is not pictured as holy, remote, and implacably righteous. He is, rather, a lover who is present in the messiness of real life. God is a participant in this dreadful reality, hidden but actively determined to heal the creation from within.

Resurrection does not remove either Christ or his followers from this world. He sends them back as new people and promises that they will find him here. There is no escape from reality, as we have found out too clearly in recent current events.

One place we find the Crucified and Risen Lord is in the telling of the story. To hear the story is to share the pain, the pain not only of those who suffer in this world, but the pain of God as well.

Listen for the voice of God speaking directly to you in the story.

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1 Enlightened Reply

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  1. Kerry Walters says:

    Amen!

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