(This article originally appeared in Connect! magazine)
In the summer of 2010, the world was captivated by the ordeal of thirty-three miners in Chile.
On August 5, a shaft at the San Jose copper and gold mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert collapsed trapping the thirty-three men two thousand feet below the earth. At first they had no idea whether anyone knew they were down there. Somehow they were able to get word to the surface that they were alive. However, it was expected to take over three months to rescue them. No one had survived underground for that long a period. It was an extremely dire situation.
They could have despaired and given up. They could have turned against each other and blamed each other for their situation. Instead, they turned to their faith to sustain them. They built a shrine and prayed together. Against all odds, they believed that God would make a way for them.
Finally, in October, after sixty-nine days underground, a shaft was completed capable of raising them to the surface. As they came out one by one, they praised God for saving them. One of the men, Jimmy Sanchez, wrote in a letter that there were not thirty-three men trapped in the mine but thirty-four. God had been down there with them. They knew they were not alone but that God was sharing the ordeal with them. That knowledge gave them the hope that they would be saved and kept them from succumbing to fear and despair.
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. As creator of the universe, all things belong to Christ. Most earthly kings and rulers live in palaces separated from the people by stone walls and fortified towers. They do not share the life of the people and are for the most part unaware of their struggles and fears. Jesus is not such a king. He came down from heaven taking on a body so that He could know what it was to be human. Because of this, He understands our weakness and temptations. He knows what it is like to work long hours and to feel the loneliness of being separated from his family. He has felt the pain of being ridiculed and humiliated. Because of that, we can turn to Him when we are in distress and be assured that He is standing by our side carrying us through whatever difficulties we are facing.
We are not alone. Jesus is with us.
The greatest example of Jesus’ love and His willingness to share our human life is His death on the cross. Though He was the most powerful man to ever walk the earth, He allowed Himself to be crucified between two thieves. He did this out of love for us. He wanted to take upon Himself the punishment for our sinfulness. He wanted us to understand the lengths He would go to so that we could be redeemed and saved. That is the kind of king Jesus is. The kind of king who shares the life of His people even to the point of death. Because of this, Jesus’ throne is not made of marble or granite. Rather, Jesus’ throne is the cross.
Whenever there is a tragedy in our world whether it be the typhoon in the Philippines or the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, it is natural for us to ask “Where is God?” When we see children suffering and malnourished we cannot help but wonder how God can allow it. Because of such questions, many have wondered whether God exists at all or, if He does exist, they wonder whether He really cares. When we see the reality of evil in our world, wars, hatred and the random killing of innocent life, we can wonder whether Jesus’ death on the cross made any difference.
Pope Benedict XVI in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, looked at this question. The world asks, "What difference did Jesus make?" Pope Benedict answers, "He brought God." Jesus ended God's seeming silence, indifference and impotence before the reality of evil, suffering and death. In Jesus, we can no longer say that God does not know what death is and, more importantly, that He does not care. Jesus’ death on the cross revealed a God who stands with us when we are afraid and is at our side while we are suffering.
We judge our rulers and leaders by the results they get for us. So it is natural that the world continues to look at Jesus and require from Him a salvation that can be measured in economic or political terms - a salvation that can be put to some use. But that is not why Jesus died. He did not put Himself through the ordeal of the cross so that we could have more prosperity or more power. He did it simply so that we could know God and love Him more.
If all we want out of life is material prosperity, then, when problems arise, we will act like the thief on the cross who ridiculed Jesus saying, “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and save us!” But if our greatest desire in life is to love and serve God, then we will rejoice when we are faced with difficulties because we will realize that at that moment God is with us. Like the good thief, we will want nothing more than to know that one day we will be with Jesus in paradise.
No one needs to suffer alone. Even if everyone abandons us, God stands by our side. Like our breath and our heart beat, He is always at work even when we are unaware of it. Our King Jesus calls us out of the darkness of fear and despair into the bright light of faith and hope. All we have to do is give Him our lives, and He will change them.