In the Old Testament we frequently hear of God exercising his wrath on the human race when they were disobedient. Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden and discovered their nakedness. The world was flooded and only the righteous Noah together with his family was saved. The Israelites found themselves slaves and were then exiled in the desert for 40 years and scriptures meted out harsh punishments not that different from those we still see today in the Middle East – beheading, stoning to death and so forth.
Then God sent his only Son to earth and for 33 years he preached the love of God, turning the other cheek rather than ‘an eye for an eye’ and immediately prior to his own sacrifice, he established a New Covenant through the Eucharist. During his time on earth, Jesus spent much time in prayer.
Is it possible that he spent that time explaining to God just what it was like to be human? After all, he experienced human suffering and saw poverty, disease and death; he felt the tyranny of the Roman occupation as well as the hypocrisy of religious leaders. It seems that little has changed today for those who follow Christ.
On the cross, Jesus called out to his Father asking Him to ‘forgive them, for they know not what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). Was Jesus just asking forgiveness for his accusers, his executioners, for Judas the one who betrayed him or the disciples who deserted him at the first sign of trouble? Or was he asking it for all mankind, now that he had first-hand knowledge of what they were going through themselves? Who knows?
One thing is for certain, the God of the New Testament proclaimed a new Covenant of love, love for God, love for your neighbour, even love for your enemy. While we still have to face death and judgement, it seems we now have an intercessor in Jesus, one who lived as a man among men; one who overcame temptation; that laughed and cried, lived and died but re-opened the gates of Heaven that all might have eternal life.