Main article: The Sufferings of Christ
Christ’s Interpersonal Sufferings are what Christ endured in an emotional, social, or interpersonal way. These sufferings are not so much connected with His office of King, but with His Person as rejected, despised, etc. by fellow men. These interpersonal sufferings were felt by the Lord all through His life on earth, but they intensified as He neared the cross. Examples would be the loneliness and rejection the Lord felt, even by those He was closest to.
Treachery from the ruling class. The scripture speaks of the “contradiction of sinners” that was against Christ. This refers to the wicked speech that was constantly directed toward the Savior.
“For consider well him who endured so great contradiction from sinners against himself, that ye be not weary, fainting in your minds.” (Heb. 12:3)
Routinely, they would strategize His demise, and sent unto Him “certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words” (Mark 12:13). Can you imagine being hunted your whole life long, without just cause? The plotting and scheming of the Sanhedrin only intensified toward the end of our Lord’s public ministry. In the final days, the Lord experienced a sense of being surrounded by enemies. He expresses this in Psalm 22, as being surrounded by bulls (Jewish enemies), and dogs (Gentile enemies).
“Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. … For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me, etc.” (Psa. 22:11-13, 16)
During His trials, the Lord was led from one judgment hall to another. All the evidence pointed to His innocence, but the rulers of the Jews would not give up until they got a guilty verdict. Isaiah 53:7-8 speaks of His perfect harmlessness during those trials, as He was led from place to place.
Denial by One of His Own Disciples. The Savior suffered not only from the leaders of apostate Israel, but from those He knew. Peter, one of His own disciples, denied Him three times. Previously, Peter had said “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” The Lord knew that Peter was leaning on his own strength in this boast, and would surely fall. Yet the denial, when it finally came, wounded the Lord’s heart.
“And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-62)
He felt all these interpersonal things more deeply than we feel them. This is because He did not have the sinful nature that we have, which tends to stifle the emotions, and harden one’s heart against pain. It was bitter sorrow for Peter when he realized that he had denied the Lord. How much more did the Lord Jesus feel it.
Desertion by all of His Disciples. Peter was not alone in his fleshly boast. We find in Matt. 26:35, that following Peter’s boast; “Likewise also said all the disciples.” But the other disciples were no greater or stronger than Peter. When at last the great multitude came with swords and staves, it says “Then ALL the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matt. 26:56). How sad to think that when our Lord’s darkest hour was fast approaching, at that time His own disciples forsook Him.
The Loneliness of Christ. One by one, those interpersonal comforts that naturally strengthen the human spirit were removed. At last Jesus was left alone:
- Alone “like a pelican of the wilderness”,
- Alone “like an owl of the desert”,
- Alone “like a sparrow upon the house top.” Psalm 102:6-7
“I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” (Psa. 69:20)
And yet, while He was forsaken by man, the Lord still had the fellowship of His Father; “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). But, in the abandonment of the last three dark hours, even that fellowship was taken away.
Betrayal by one of His own Disciples. Peter’s denial was one thing, but Judas’ betrayal was quite another. In the case of Peter, the Lord knew his heart, that down deep Peter had affection for Him. But He also knew Judas’ heart. It has been well said; “the worst thing about betrayal is that it comes from your friend”. The Lord was betrayed by one of His own. In John 13 we are given the fact; “Jesus was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). It was a deep, deep sorrow that He felt in anticipating betrayal by one of His closest friends. In the Psalms we get the expressions of the Lord’s heart. We find that the betrayal was particularly hurtful to Christ because of His closeness to Judas.
“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” (Psa. 41:9)
“For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”(Psa. 55:12-14)
Prophetically, we find out in Zechariah what “the Master” really meant to Judas. The price Judas was willing to agree on for His betrayal was what the Lord was worth to him. “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zech. 11:12). Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a good slave… how sad.
“And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.” (Psa. 109:5)
Hatred without Cause. As human beings, we all have two basic needs; to be loved, and to be understood. The Lord had neither from men. Those who loved Him did not understand Him. Those who understood Him, hated Him. In Psa. 69 we hear the Lord’s voice crying out in anguish as He felt the reproach from every hateful foe. Where did the hatred come from? It came from Satan, the world, and the flesh. The Lord was hated almost universally. The scorn came from rich and poor, wise and simple. Did He feel it? Their hatred was without cause, their enmity was wrong; but did that discount the suffering it caused our Blessed Lord? No. His heart was broken by the reproach.
“They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty…” (Psalm 69:4)
“They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.” (Psalm 69:20)
“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness.” (Psalm 69:12)
Dehumanizing Treatment. Not only was Christ denied His glory as Messiah and as Son of God, but He was denied basic humanitarian treatment. We see this particularly in the judgment hall scenes and on the cross. It would not be right to neglect this aspect of His sufferings.
As He hung on the cross, the soldiers divided His garments into four parts (one for each soldier) and gambled for His coat (Psalm 22:18). This was all done before His very eyes. One great thing that differentiates humans from animals is that we wear clothing. But there, at the foot of the cross, those last memoirs of human identity were stripped from Him.
“They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” (Psalm 22:18)
Another form of dehumanizing treatment was the games they played at His expense (and we might add, to their eternal loss; Luke 22:64).
“And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” (Luke 22:64)
The blindfold was no hindrance to the Creator of the universe. He could have answered that question, and done much worse to those cruel men.
They mocked His claim to the throne of David with a crown of thorns, and reed-scepter, and a scarlet robe. They bowed before Him in mockery, saying facetiously, “Hail, King of the Jews!”. One day they will be forced to bow, and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but in the meantime, the Lord suffered these indignities in humble patience.
“And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:28-29)
Just before the Lord was crucified, the soldiers taunted the hungry and thirsty Man with vinegar and gall. Vinegar was wine that had gone bad and become nauseous and unfit to drink. Gall or “bile” is a bitter and poisonous plant, perhaps the Poppy, which grows abundantly in Palestine. It was offered to those who were about to die in mockery, because the poison would stupefy the brain in those moments of agony. The Lord tasted it… felt the bitterness of human ingratitude, but would not drink of it (Matt. 27:34). He would accept no alleviation of the pain. The cruel soldiers were not content with merely refusing to give Jesus refreshment; instead they aggravated and embittered His sufferings by offering Him poisonous food and revolting drink. In short, they treated Him worse than an animal. Note: a different word for “vinegar” is used in Matt. 27:48, Mark 15:36, Luke 23:36 and John 19:30. There it was a thin wine that, while not pleasant to drink, was somewhat refreshing. It was the cheapest beverage available. In Luke 23:36, the soldiers mocked the Lord by offering Him a drink… but their offer was in jest. At the end of three hours of darkness, the Lord did drink what was brought to Him after saying, “I thirst”, that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 19:28).
“They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” (Psa. 69:21)
Whether it was those who sat down to watch Him suffer, or those who passed by Him and jeered, the animal cruelty of the spectators must have produced tremendous suffering in His soul.
“And sitting down they watched him there; … And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads.” (Matt. 27:36, 39)
Dishonored as Son of God. To me, this last form of interpersonal suffering is the worst. It came from the Sanhedrin;
“Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:41-43)
What is most awful about this suffering is that they were calling into question His identity as the Son of God, and His eternal relationship to the Father! Wouldn’t God deliver His own Son, if Jesus were really His Son? And He had to let that stand unanswered, not because it was true – nothing could be further from the truth – but because He had a deeper motive. What suffering that must have caused in His inmost being. But what was the true reason He could not save Himself? One hymn (L.F. #257) so beautifully describes the reasons why He could not save Himself; all of which are well supported by scripture. “Himself He could not save;” because He must:
- Satisfy the righteous claims of a Holy God:
For justice must be done;
Our sins’ full weight must fall
Upon the sinless One;
- Stand in our place, as our Substitute, and our Surety:
For He the Surety stood,
For all who now rely,
Upon His precious blood;
- The highest motive of all; love and devotion to His Father;
Obedience to His Father’s will,
And love to Him did all fulfil.
That is why He did not save Himself. That is why He hung there in silence while the seed of the serpent railed against Him. For Him to let that insult stand caused soul-suffering beyond our comprehension. But God be praised, that insult has been answered in the resurrection and glorification of His Son!