Quite a few of the gospel and epistle readings in this Lenten tide do not seem to fit all that well to this season in which the Church commemorates the suffering of our praiseworthy Lord and savior. So it seems at least to the more superficial observer. Yet these readings preach of his suffering too. In today’s epistle I see our Saviour’s suffering clearly – in the picture of his disciples and servants. Just as he was in the world, his disciples were in this world too. They carried the suffering of their Lord on their bodies too. Everybody could recognise the Lord in his servants. Just contemplate those words: “in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses” or “in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger” or “through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors” or “known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed” and finally “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything!” (2Co 6:5-10 NIV) Does this biography just tell the story of the ardour and suffering of the apostle or does it not also reflect on his Lord and saviour? Truly the suffering of the holy apostle preach loud and clear about the Lord’s suffering too.
It is not only about the sufferings we see the Lord going through. Suffering occurs to those on earth and in hell, but the way he suffered is unique. Or do we? Yes, there are split images, copies of his divine template he gave in patience, chastity, understanding, endurance, friendliness, true spirituality of the Holy Spirit, unsullied love and his holy struggles in those of the apostle. Yes, as he was in the world, they were in the world too. In them his virtues were duplicated and multiplied – just as his sufferings. He suffered in them and they did not receive his grace in vain or for nothing.
Rejoice if you endure miseries, temptations and distress even instead of kind reviews. Know that whoever is to be revived by God will first suffer and die with Christ. If you want to live with Jesus, you’ll have to die with him first. You can’t get to heaven without bearing the cross.
His almighty power proves itself most mightily in those powerless. They praise his name above all else and that’s why he prefers to give those trembling with fear joyful confidence – instead of those, who walk tall anyway. Therefore o Jesus grant that I trust you firmly even where I do not see you close and do not feel your help near by.
(Christian Ludwig Ebeling, 1676-1742. The translation of the hymn is somewhat liberal, not quite literal and not poetical either. The devotion is a translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for the Sunday Invocavit (First Sunday in Lent) as found on Pg. 117 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and puplished in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.