Naturally we want to take Jesus Christ as our example and grow into His nature—always bearing in mind that we cannot compare ourselves with the Lord. But what does this really mean? Allow me to illustrate this using the example of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. It is not our intent to glorify suffering. Suffering cannot redeem us. The only thing that can redeem us is the love of God. It is the love of God that is actually glorified in Jesus’ suffering and death, namely God’s love for mankind. However, we can learn a few things from the events surrounding Jesus’ death.
This man who had been executed was without guilt. Jesus had been condemned and had not even reacted to His accusers. He could have defended Himself. He could have accused the others. He had all the power to destroy His accusers. But what did Jesus do? He remained silent. He knew that the whole situation lay in the hand of the Father.
How do we react to accusations? We immediately ask who is to blame. And then we defend ourselves and accuse others. Most of the time we do not even manage to find the person who is truly at fault. But we launch our accusations nevertheless: “It is his fault! She is to blame!” If we are aware that all of this lies in the hand of God, we can spare ourselves the effort of frantically looking for a guilty party to accuse. Then we will remain quite calm—one might even call it stoic—because we know that this situation has come from God.
When Jesus had been nailed to the cross, He prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34). And He prayed: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (cf. Mark 15: 34). And in the end He prayed: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23: 46). Even while on the cross, Jesus prayed for His tormentors, sought a connection with His Father, and spoke to Him. We read that the early Christians “continued steadfastly in … prayers” (cf. Acts 2: 42). What do we understand by this? The divine service. It is an important component of the divine service when the congregation comes together, not only to hear the sermon, but to pray to God together. It then becomes a praying congregation. We worship God, we bring Him our intercessions, we thank Him, and we bring our own concerns and petitions before Him. Whatever happens, let us always feel this need to pray.
And how did Jesus speak to God? “Father, forgive them!” He addressed God as His Father—this God, who had permitted all of these things, this God who had not done anything to deliver Jesus! And it was this God whom Jesus addressed as Father. This testifies of an unconditional love for God! Jesus even said: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”—“My God!” After everything that had happened, this was still His God. Never did the thought arise: “This is not My God any more. I reject this God because He has not helped Me!” No. This was still His God. And then followed the statement: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Even in the most terrible moments of His life Jesus loved His Father unconditionally. This is also to be the case for us—even when we do not understand God and the world, even when things are going badly for us, even when we feel as though God has abandoned us. At such times, let us remember: He is still our Father, He is still our God. Let us never give up our deep relationship with God.
Naturally we must remember that we are not the Son of God. We cannot compare ourselves to Him either, but He is our example. Let us strive to grow into His nature even though we will never manage this without the grace of God. Let us always remember: everything comes from God. Everything lies in the hand of God! Let us never give up our prayer life with our heavenly Father.
From a divine service by the Chief Apostle