The Suffering of Jesus

How many people have already researched and tried to comprehend and describe how great and difficult the sufferings of Jesus were – yet such things still remain incomprehensible to our limited minds.

In Matthew 16:21, Jesus mentions for the first time that He will have to suffer. “From that time on, Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” 

From this time forward, He would repeatedly make mention of the fact that He would suffer greatly at the hands of the religious elite. Up to this time, His main teaching point had been that He was the Christ. But the time had come to share with His disciples that Christ had come into the world aware of the suffering He would encounter. It was imperative that the apostles were informed of this event in order to prepare them for it when it would come. However, when the time came and the suffering began, the disciples were not prepared for it. Two of the disciples walked to Emmaus after the crucifixion and discussed the event, when Jesus approached them and traveled with them. In the conversation, Jesus says: “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26) Somehow in their imagination, it was inconceivable that Jesus should suffer, as they had put great hopes in Him to establish an earthly kingdom. 

The Christian religion varies greatly from all other religions in that it has at its center a humiliated and suffering founder. Jesus suffered rejection from His own people. He was despised by many and ridiculed for His seeming incapability of saving Himself from the suffering on the cross. Centuries before this happened, the prophet Isaiah painted the suffering of the Christ in his description of Jesus in chapter 53:5: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” 

In the medical field, pain is calculated on a scale of 1-10, but the intensity and magnitude of pain cannot really be measured. The agony of Jesus on the cross cannot be gauged be medical science, since His suffering was not only physical. The greater agony of Jesus was in the spiritual realm, especially the feeling of abandonment by the Father in heaven. In His cry on the cross, the most distressing call was: “‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46) Our human mind is unable to comprehend the depth of such suffering; the incomparable agony that Jesus’ soul went through is beyond human comprehension. Paul writes that He “descended into the lower parts of earth” (Ephesians 4:9). No human being has ever stepped down to the same level of suffering and agony. While contemplating the suffering of Jesus, questions come to mind:

Why did Jesus suffer?

There is only one reason, and it is sin. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” Had the religious or civil courts found any fault in Him, then the reason could be charged to Him, but they did not. God’s proclamation that He suffered for our sake is the only valid reason. As we look at the agony of Jesus, we must recognize the abhorrence of sin in the holy eyes of God. Sin is a complete opposite of what God is and loves; therefore, all sinfulness is banished from His presence.

Who did Jesus suffer for?

You and me, we are the perpetrators that deserved the punishment He received because of our sinfulness. Tragically, even if we were suffer the punishment we deserved for our sins, we could still not purchase our redemption with it. Jesus told the Jews who did not believe in Him: “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come” (John 8:21). Jesus, the blameless Lamb of God had to suffer and pay the debt we could not pay, to purchase the life we did not have. All stand under the cross as convicted sinners. The only way of redemption lies in the fact the Jesus suffered for our sins. But unless we recognize our own guilt in His suffering and repent of the sins that caused His suffering, we benefit nothing from it. 

What should we learn from His suffering?

For one, our worth in the eyes of God. Jesus deemed us worthy and suffered the indescribable anguish on the cross because we are created for heaven. We are bearers of God’s image and have the capacity to glorify the Lord on earth. In order to do so, Jesus had to redeem us and restore that pure and holy image in us to make us a light in the world. As we think about the suffering of Christ on the cross, let us remember what the suffering was for and what high privilege it affords us to be an honor to His name.

Another reason for His suffering was to make us eligible to be guests at the wedding feast of the Lamb. Paul makes it very clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In our natural state, we cannot enter into the heavenly bliss; we must be washed from our sins. All the guests at the wedding feast of the Lamb are washed in the blood that was shed on the cross; because of the sufferings of Jesus this is possible. The suffering of Jesus is an invitation to become partakers of that divine nature that assures an eternity with Jesus.

Peter Ens

Toronto, Ontario

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