Divine Solidarity

18 07 2011

Divine Solidarity

Someone has said that a “picture captures a thousand words.”

My family and I have just returned from a ministry trip to Joplin, Missouri, where the deadliest tornado in the past sixty years (Time Magazine), hit this small town six weeks ago.

Before leaving, to prepare for our trip, I looked over the AP and CBS News photos online.  The photos depicted well the utter devastation of Joplin after the tornado—whole neighborhoods leveled—nothing standing except for the ghostly branches of ripped apart, bark stripped trees.  You could not see a family dwelling for miles.  It reminded me of the World War II photos of Hiroshima, Japan after the atomic bomb.

I looked at photos of groups of citizens, arms linked, praying together, surrounded by collapsed buildings, piles of debris, and a buildingless landscape. One photo shows a devastated storefront with these words written on the outer wall:  “Down, not out…God bless Joplin!”

But one picture in particular caught my eye and my heart and that was of a church steeple, a cross, still standing high amidst the rubble.  It was the cross of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.  Right in the middle of “the grid,” the most heavily hit section of Joplin, this huge steel cross was not only standing, but not even affected.  The St. Mary’s cross—stark and elevated against the dark stormy sky—was still standing high above destroyed homes, wrecked automobiles, and impassible streets.  It caught not just my attention, but my heart and my imagination because it spoke a thousand words.  It spoke a thousand stories—stories of pain and death, but also hope and solidarity.

This one photo drew men into the gospel story, the story of the ages, the love of Christ.  The cross was still standing in the center of the storm.  The cross of Christ is always standing in the center of the storm.  The cross of Jesus never leaves the center of any storm.  Jesus on that cross is the hope and healing for every storm.  Jesus withstands any storm.


I will call it “Divine Solidarity.”  Divine solidarity is that God suffers when we suffer.  Divine solidarity is that Jesus suffers with victims, feels their pain; He understands their suffering.  Divine solidarity is the theme of divine self-giving and sacrifice.  Divine Solidarity is about Jesus who suffered for us.  The sufferings of Christ on the cross are not just His sufferings, they are sufferings for the weak, the poor, the devastated, the hurting.

Jesus shares in the suffering of others through His sufferings at the cross—He is in solidarity with those who suffer—He is in solidarity with all of us.  Jesus not only shares in our pain, but our pain is His pain—He not only has solidarity with our pain, but our pain is covered under His blood, His suffering, His death on the cross.

The greatest pain Jesus experienced on the cross wasn’t the physical beatings, the agony of nails being driven into His hands–such suffering can be endured, even embraced, especially if it brings desired fruit.  The greatest pain for Jesus was abandonment:  abandoned by all of his friends; abandoned by the crowds who had adored him, but also abandoned by God.


The scandal of the cross is the abandonment!  What turned suffering into agony was abandonment.  Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  In other words, “My God, I have obeyed you in every way, and yet you have abandoned me.  Why has my radical obedience led to such agony and pain?”  The violence of the Cross led to abandonment!

All of us have felt such abandonment in the violence of the storms of our lives.  You may have cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  You may have cried out, “Where is God?” “How could this happen?”  It is a cry before the dark face of God.  Jesus asked the same question.

The scandal of the cross is that those who abandoned Jesus at his greatest need, then began to preach of this new hope and promise they had found in their abandonment.  Why? Because they discovered that in the middle of the abandonment they found the Promise.

Because just a few miles from the cross at Calvary, they all came to an empty tomb!  Jesus had died but he had risen!  They witnessed that a cry of desperation, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” had become a cry of deliverance and joy.  The dark face of God had turned to a face of radiant light and joy.

The Divine solidarity is that:  Jesus suffered physically—a horrible death and lost everything.  He poured out his life blood.  Jesus also suffered emotionally—complete abandonment from all his loved ones. He suffered outwardly and inwardly; physically and emotionally.  He suffered spiritually—abandoned by God.

But He rose again!  He was not abandoned in the grave.  The divine solidarity doesn’t just mean that Christ suffered for us, but that He rose from suffering and death for us.  The divine solidarity doesn’t just mean that He rose for us but with us.  He wants us to rise with him.  A divine solidarity of death and resurrection life.

The Heart of Everything

The message to us all is that the divine solidarity of Jesus Christ is the heart of everything!  Jesus understands and has solidarity with our pain, our feelings of abandonment but He doesn’t leave us there—He is not some great counselor in the sky that just listens and does nothing.  No, the Jesus of the cross also takes us to the tomb—the empty tomb.  Jesus wants us to start at the cross, die to ourselves, and discover new life in the resurrection.  Paul understood the divine solidarity when he spoke autobiographically,

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

And so the photo of St. Mary’s cross captures the divine solidarity of a thousand stories, a thousand miracles, and a thousand new possibilities.  Embrace your pain, embrace your hurts, embrace your abandonment, and look to the cross.  He knows how you feel.  Look past the cross and you will see an empty tomb.



5 responses

18 07 2011
Madeline Roth

Thank God for empty tombs and resurrections! Truly, we fail, but He always continues on. Thanks for the reminder.

19 07 2011

Powerful statement Pastor Steve! How true Gal. 2:20!!

20 07 2011
Jeff Odegard

This reminds me of Hebrews 4:14-16:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

21 07 2011
Nicki Burke

I have often wondered why Jesus had to die such a violent and painful death. Was it so he would experience all the pain that humanity can feel and therefore truly understand? But being God, didn’t he understand that already?

29 07 2011
Johanna VanderBeek

Thank you. This is beautifully encouraging in a dark time. Thank you for the reminder that He faced abandonment and He trusted in the midst of the Father’s absence to say,”Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

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