Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly – - not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
‘Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?’ snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. ’We endured terror… beatings… torture… death!’
In another group a Black man lowered his collar. ’What about this?’ he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. ‘Lynched…for no crime but being black!’
In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. ‘Why should I suffer’ she murmured, ‘It wasn’t my fault.’
Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in his world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was to live in Heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in their world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a Black man, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the plain whey consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth – - as a man!
‘Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacey of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
‘At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.’
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled.
And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence.
The issue of evil and suffering here on earth has puzzled humanity in every millenia of our existence. As early as Job, with the Epicurean Paradox, and as recently as CS Lewis- questions, discussions and solutions abound, even confound. The brutal death of Jesus provides the basis and resolution for such discussion.
The playlet above is found in a fabulous section on ‘suffering and glory’ in a lengthy classic by John R. W. Stott entitled “The Cross of Christ” an InterVarsity Press publication 1986.