Holy Week is a fitting time to remember that God’s grace comes to us in physical, visceral ways.
The gospel writers give us gruesome detail of the physical experience of Jesus sacrificing himself so that we can have peace with God. Soldiers slammed nails through his hands and feet, ripping through skin, tendon, muscle, and bone. They smashed a crown of thorns into his head. They stabbed a spear into his side and bodily fluids poured out. Jesus died on that rugged cross. Jesus did not simply think in his mind, I’ll save these humans who have lost their way, and then suddenly everything was okay. He agonized about the experience so profoundly that he was sweating blood and praying for a way out.
But he went through with it, suffering in his body because humans are created body-and-spirit.
Jesus’ suffering had great meaning. God was present in it, and God also is present in our suffering. By God’s grace we can find meaning in the worst of circumstances.
Our bodies disappoint us. We can have no doubt about that. Even apart from dangerous behaviors or accidents, bodies break. We live with chronic illness, even suffering that seems as though it should be unbearable. Loved ones die while we hold their hands and cool their foreheads and give them one last kiss.
Jesus shows us that the body is at the heart of how we know God. He understood that his life had purpose and meaning precisely through his physical experience, not because of it. The apostle Paul calls Jesus’ death “Gods abundant provision of grace” (Romans 5:17).
Jesus himself said he came so that we can “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Yes, Holy Week is a fitting time to remember that health comes to us even in suffering.
Adapted from God, Health and Happiness by G. Scott Morris (Barbour Publishing, 2012).