Death & Resurrection
The image of the cross and the death of Jesus is a prominent symbol in Christianity and a potent reminder of the reality of human suffering and pain. Suffering and sorrow are a given part of human life. Sickness, pain, rejection, loneliness, heartbreak, and death - all these come to all of us at some point or the other.
That’s why Jesus said, “"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. And the first of the four noble truths that the Buddha teaches is “Dukkha” – SUFFERING – life in this temporary world is characterised by suffering.
So, Jesus on the cross is not just about one person but a symbol of the whole of humanity with all its sorrow and anguish.
All of the Great Messengers of Light experienced suffering as part of their human journey. The Tamil saint Appar’s painful stomach disease led him to the feet of Lord Shiva and made him one of the greatest devotees of the Lord. Rumi’s loss of his beloved Shams caused the great poet and mystic in him to be born. Lord Krishna gave us theBhagavad Gita on the battle field of suffering. Lord Rama endures great emotional pain and longing for Mother Seetha when she is abducted by Ravana. The Buddha only after great sacrifices and being reduced to skin and bones finds his middle path to enlightenment. Saint Francis lived a life of extreme poverty and even received the painful stigmata - the marks of Jesus’ wounds on his body. All these messengers of Light embraced suffering as a part of the human condition and thereby displayed before us the Divine Presence even in our sufferings.
GOD IS WITH US IN OUR SUFFERING
Lord Shiva drinking the deadly poison that threatened to destroy the Universe is an archetypal symbol that shows the Love of God which is prepared to endure pain and suffering and even face death so that the world may be saved. This is reflected in the Bible verse that says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Herein, is a strong reminder that God is with us even in our sufferings, in our confusions, and in the darkest moments of life.
Hence, the day Jesus died is commonly called “Good” Friday, because even though it feels gloomy when you think of the pain that Jesus endures, a right understanding of his sufferings will reveal the goodness of God in this great act of love, therefore changing what ought to be a "Bad Friday" into a "Good Friday". Jesus in his suffering is showing us the extent of God's Love, that when humanity rejects God and even tries to kill him, he keeps his arms wide open, never giving up on us. No matter how bad things seem, no matter how painful life gets, the cross of Jesus shows us that there is always hope. The God of Love is with us in our sorrows. Jesus by suffering reminds us that God is with us even in our pain and confusion. He who is above the states of joy and sorrow, takes upon himself the human condition of suffering to show his children the way beyond the vicious cycle of birth and death. What incredible love!
SUFFERING AS A MEANS TO TRANSFORMATION
Human tendency is to avoid and run away from pain. We seek relief from suffering in temporary pleasures that fade away with time but the anguish of life returns in some form or the other. At the core of all suffering is the profound longing of our souls for reunion with the Divine. It is our ignorance of our True Nature that is at the core of all sufferings. In fact if we listen carefully in our moments of pain there is a silent voice reminding us that we are not this temporary make-up which is experiencing this thing we call suffering or sorrow – our eternal nature is beyond this.
Jesus on the cross, is teaching us that if we embrace our pain with the right attitude it can transform us and empower us in ways that we cannot imagine. Suffering actually can be a window that causes us to see beyond the temporary illusions of this world and catch a glimpse of the Eternal.
Jesus on the cross shows us that in the midst of pain a bright light can shine forth from the human heart. He forgives those who nailed him to cross so that bitterness may not take root in his heart. He gives hope to the hopeless thief who is dying next to him. In his suffering, Jesus puts others before himself rather than getting absorbed in self-pity. The message is clear - don’t allow suffering to be a cloud that blocks the light of the sun shining in your heart but let love flow in spite of the pain.
Pain and suffering has the ability to bring something beautiful out of us. It is when the heart is broken that the Light of God enters so beautifully through the cracks. How will the gold be purified and shine brilliantly unless it passes through the refining fire? How will the flute play a sweet sound unless it submits to the carver’s knife? How will the stone statue stand lifelike unless it is first chiseled?
SURRENDER IN SUFFERING
Jesus on the cross invites us to come to God with all our struggles, sorrows, and anguish; and to surrender them at the feet of God. On the path of spirituality, we must learn to accept whatever comes to us, whether they cause sorrow or joy – this is a part of surrender.
Everything that happens is a result of karma gathered in this and many past lives. I prefer to see Karma not as punishment for wrong doing or rewards for good actions but as new opportunities to learn the lessons we failed to learn previously and to move closer to God-Realisation. Suffering is not punishment from a judgmental God but an opportunity to transform ourselves and surrender to the Divine.
The last words of Jesus on the cross are a profound act of total surrender in the midst of sorrow, pain, and death - “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”.
THE HOPE OF RESURRECTION
But in all the pain and suffering of this world we must remember there is Resurrection. Three days after his death, Jesus rises from the dead as a sign that no matter what happens God has a good plan for us, and from life to life he will draw us closer and closer until we are Risen to our original and true natures as Sons and Daughters of God – flames born out of the Eternal Fire of Love. There is always a light shining at the end of the dark tunnel. There is always hope. The Grace of God will come to the rescue and liberate us!
In embracing the cross, Jesus gives us strength to embrace our own sufferings and shows us the hope of the Resurrection. The death of Jesus is a reminder that the body must die, but our true form can never be put to death. The soul will continue to live beyond death. Good Friday is the death of the False-Ego-Self and Easter is the awakening of the True-Eternal-Self.
Ramana Maharishi sings, “In order that Siva, the Absolute, Consciousness, might shine forth and the True-Self flourish and that I might be rescued from the misery of the world and the snares of the despicable senses, the Lord of the Red Hill, Arunachala, raised me to His state.”
In the Resurrection, Jesus transforms his physical body into a purely spiritual state. We see this also in the lives of saints like Elijah, Ramalinga Swami, Meerabhai, Manikavasagar and others, whose physical bodies where transformed from dense matter into pure energy and consciousness and merged with the Divine, thus not going through the normal process of death. We must become so saturated with the holiness of God that even our physical bodies radiate with the Life of God. Jesus is showing us in his death and resurrection, how we can take this human life with all its challenges and change it into a God-life that radiates with Divine Light.
When I think of Jesus rising from the dead I can’t help but think of the joyful dance of Shiva-Nataraja. Muyalakan, the demon-ego, which Nataraja dances on must be crushed - crucified - so that one can experience the Ananda-Tandava - the dance of bliss - the resurrection of Christ - the life-giving dance of the Lord - the realisation of the True-Self.
The feet that dance for Eternity,
Upon a rugged cross are nailed,
The hands that fire and thunder hold,
Upon a wooden cross are bound,
Stillness and Silence in the darkness!
And then the rumbling sound…
He’s dancing again!
The tomb is empty!
Christ is alive!
Shiva’s dance is unstoppable!
Wishing you a deeply meaningful Good Friday and Joyful Easter.