The Suffering of Jesus Christ

by Nick Lotter on December 4, 2012

Suffering of Jesus ChristAs we enter the Advent season, it is appropriate that we should be reminded of the suffering that the Lord Jesus Christ endured for our sake on the cross. But what exactly did Jesus Christ suffer on the cross? Was it just physical suffering, or was it much worse, much deeper than that?

Let’s start by reading the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the death of Jesus:

Isaiah 53:1-5  Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 

Isaiah 53:10  Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

An Amazing Prophecy of Christ

This is one of the most amazing and sobering prophecies in the Old Testament. Here, hundreds of years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah paints a vivid picture of the suffering that the Messiah would come to endure.

The Messiah would not be a beautiful, handsome man to look at. There would be nothing special about his appearance. He would be hated and rejected by men. He would be a man of sorrow and grief. He would be hated so much that people would avoid him at all costs, and nowhere would people respect him. Yet this man, who would be so hated and despised, would carry the sins of the people and stand in their place, bearing their guilt, and be utterly crushed by God in their place.

This prophesy would be fulfilled hundreds of years later on the cross, as Jesus hung and died for the redemption of His people.

It is Not Enough to Say He Died

Yet it is not enough to say that He died, because every man dies. It is not enough to say that He died a noble death, because martyrs do the same. In order to understand the Gospel, we have to understand not just that Jesus died, but also that He suffered, and to what extent He suffered. Jesus not only died in our place, He suffered in our place! He suffered tremendously! Forsaken by the Father, separated, made sin in our place, and crushed under the full weight of God’s fury.

In the garden, Jesus prays before being taken away by the guards. Sweating blood, He anxiously asks the Father to take away the cup!

Matthew 26:39   And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

What was in the cup? What was it that the Lord Jesus Christ was dreading so much that it made him sweat blood? Was it the cat of nine tails that was to rip pieces of flesh from his back, time and time again? Was it the crown of thorns that would be placed on his head, piercing his scalp? Was it the severe beating and lashes that would leave him bleeding and bruised all over His body? Was it the nails that would be hammered through His hands and feet, fastening Him to the Roman cross?

All of this horrific physical torture that Christ had to suffer was necessary and was God’s will for His Son, but is the physical torture all that would be in the cup?

It is a well known fact that in the first centuries after Christ, many thousands of Christians were subjected to similar torture and also died on crosses. The Roman emperor Nero crucified Christians upside down on a cross, covered them with tar, and set them on fire to provide light for the streets of Rome. Even throughout the ages since then and still today, thousands of Christians have been and are being made to suffer horrific torture for their faith, yet it is the testimony of friends and enemies that they all went boldly to their deaths, at times singing praises to God with joy in their hearts!

Are we to believe that the followers of the Messiah would march boldly to their physical torture and deaths with joy, while the same Messiah they followed – the Messiah that Isaiah prophesied – cowered in a corner of a garden, sweating blood and praying anxiously over the same torture?

Did the Son of God fear whips and thorns, crosses and spears… or did the cup represent a terror far beyond our imaginations?

What was in the Cup?

To understand the contents of the cup, we must turn to the Scriptures. What we find in Psalm 75 gives us a better understanding of what suffering awaited the Son of God on the cross:

Psalm 75:8   For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

and also in the book of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 25:15  Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 

As a result of the evil and sin of mankind, God decreed judgement against them. Justice would be done! He would put the cup of the wine of His fury to the mouths of mankind, and force them to drink it down to the last drop. This is the Holy God of the Bible that we never hear about in popular modern Christian media.

God is holy. When we say that God is holy, it does not only mean that He is perfect in every way. God is holy, therefore He hates everything that is unholy. Some will say, “God does not hate anything because God is love!” This is a logically flawed argument. In order for God to love, He must also hate! You see, I love children and therefore I hate abortion. I cannot be loving of all things or else I would not be loving at all! God is holy and good, and therefore He hates everything which is not holy and good.

God is also just. For God to be just, He must judge the wicked and He must punish evil. He must judge rightly and do justice. Because every person is evil to the core and has sinned against the Eternal Creator, God is just to declare judgement against each and every single one of us. There is no doubt that we are all deserving of this. If God did not declare justice against us, He would not be just! So justice must be done. God will not simply forgive without handing down judgment and dishing out justice. That would not be just. How would you feel if a judge of the courts looked at the guy who had just murdered your family and said, “I am a loving and merciful judge. You may go free”? You would call him unjust and more vile than the murderer he set free! So why would we think that God will be merciful and loving and at the same time not hand down judgment and make sure that justice is done?

The thought of the wrath and judgment of God waiting for every human being, including you and me, is absolutely terrifying! As the Scriptures say, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”(Hebrews 10:31). Yet this is exactly what every one of us would have had to suffer. It had to be done! The judge of all the earth has to be just and must do justice!

We would have all suffered this fate had it not been for the great love, mercy and grace of God, to devise a plan of Salvation that would save us from having to endure such a horrific fate. A plan that would satisfy His justice, and yet at the same time make it possible for Him to forgive wicked men and women for the sins they committed against Him and to justify them and declare them good in His sight.

God’s Plan for Justice and Redemption

The Son of God Himself would come to earth in flesh as a man, and would walk in absolute perfect obedience to the Law of God, satisfying every requirement thereof. He would be a man in every way, subject to the same limitations, weaknesses and temptations that man is subject to, and yet He would be perfect and blameless. Then, at the appointed time, He would be crucified at the hands of evil men. He would stand in their law place as a man, bear their guilt on His shoulders, and suffer the absolute, pure, holy fury of God for their sin in their place.

He would take the cup from the hand of God, and drink it down to the last drop, until it was finished, so that the justice of God against sin was satisfied.

Imagine a massive dam that is filled to the brim and spilling over. At once the dam wall breaks open, and the full force of the destructive power of the water is unleashed and is rushing towards a city. There is absolutely no hope for the city and its population as the massive flood rushes towards them. At the last second, just as the flood is about to hit the city and annihilate everything and everybody, a huge whole opens up in the earth between the city and the rushing flood, and swallows every last drop.

In the same way, the full force of God’s fury is rushing towards man, but the Son of God came and stood in our place and swallowed every last drop of God’s fury for us so that we could be saved and justified. The same God against Whom we have all sinned, and Who is right to judge and condemn each one of us, loves us so much that He came to us in the flesh and paid the price of our sin for us.

What a God we serve! Holy and Just, Loving, Gracious and Merciful!

What other god would do this for his people? In every other religion it is the god who demands every sacrifice from his subjects. Yet no other god of any other religion loves his subjects enough to pay the ultimate price for them. To die for them.

The God of the Holy Bible loves each one of us to such an extent that we cannot begin to imagine the depth of His love. As the Holy Scriptures say:

John 3:16   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

It Pleased the Father to Crush His Son

As we read in our Scripture, Isaiah says it pleased God to crush Him. It is not just that Jesus hung on the cross and paid the price for us, but we are told that it was pleasing to the Father to crush His only Son.

Imagine two heavy concrete stones, weighing 1000 tons each, and between them is a single grain of wheat. The two stones crush and grind the grain of wheat until it is pulverized beyond recognition and is nothing but dust. This would give us a glimpse of an idea of the extent that the Father crushed His Son for the sin of mankind.

But it was not the suffering of Christ that pleased the Father, it was what the suffering would accomplish that pleased God.

It pleased God to be gracious and merciful to His creation, to you and to me, and to put His Son in our place, to suffer for our sake, so that we may be reconciled to Him, and live in glory with Him for eternity!

It pleased God to justify us and redeem us!

Old Testament Metaphors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There are many metaphors found in the Old Testament for the Gospel of Christ.

The first is found in the book of Numbers:

Numbers 21:5-9  And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Because of Israel’s constant rebellion against God and their rejection of His provisions, God sent fiery snakes among the Israelites and many of them died. But because of their repentance and the intercession of Moses, God made a way for them to be saved. God commanded Moses to make a fiery snake and hang it up on a wooden pole, and when anybody who was bitten looked at it, he would be healed.

Notice that the cure for the venom was shaped in the same form as the cause. Moses was commanded to hang the cause of their death on a pole. All of mankind are sinners, and our sin is the cause of our death. Jesus came to earth in the form of sinful flesh, and with all the sin of mankind on Him, He hung on the cross. The cause of our death – sin – was up on the cross, squarely on the shoulders of Christ.

The Israelite who believed in God and looked at the snake would live. The person who believes in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, and looks to Him with faith and repents of his sins, will live.

Abraham Offers His Son

In one of the most epic stories of the Old Testament, God tells Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.

Genesis 22:2   He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Notice that the Scripture takes great care to show that Abraham was commanded to take “his son, his only son, whom he loves”

The way the Word of God is so specific and takes care to expand on who was to be sacrificed – his son, his only son, whom he loves – seems to be drawing our attention to the fact that something much deeper and more glorious is going on here than meets the eye.

Then, on the third day, when they reached the top of Mount Moriah, Abraham tied up his only son, and he lifted up the knife to bring it down on the boy. At that moment, God intervenes and holds the knife back from Abraham’s hand.

Genesis 22:10-12  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

This is seen as a wonderful ending to the story. However, it was not the end at all.

Roughly two thousand years later, Jesus Christ is bound to the cross. He is bearing the sins of His people. He is accursed and forsaken of God. He is about to be the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

The silence is broken with the horrifying thunder of God’s wrath.

God takes the metaphorical knife, draws back His arm, and slays His Son, His only Son, Whom He loves.

And the words of the prophet Isaiah were fulfilled:

Isaiah 53:4-5, 10  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

What is Your Response to This?

It takes more than whips and thorns and crosses and nails to pay the price for sin.

The one who looks to Christ and believes in Him and repents, is not saved because of what the Romans did to Christ. He is saved because of what God the Father did to His Son while He hung on the cross. Jesus Christ suffered unimaginably under the fierce, holy justice of God, and drank down the cup of God’s wrath to the very lost drop, bearing your guilt and my guilt, and the guilt of all of His people, and died in our place.

He satisfied God’s justice and opened the door for the just God of the universe to wash away our sins, and reconcile us to Him.

If I could have one plea, it would be for you to come to the foot of the cross. Repent of your sins. Believe in Jesus Christ. Receive God’s mercy and grace. Be reconciled to God. He loves you. And He did it all for you.

What's Your View?

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