THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST
Part 1 of an introduction to “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow”.

Introduction

The Importance of Christ's Sufferings

There is hardly any subject more precious to those who believe than the sufferings of Christ. In the sufferings of Christ we see:
  1. the Person and Work of Christ in many wonderful aspects, 
  2. the hatred and enmity of the flesh, the world, and Satan,
  3. the groundwork laid for “the glory that should follow”.
A Christian cannot have a right appreciation for either the love of Christ or the gravity of sin without an understanding of this vast and sacred subject. My purpose is to share a few of the high points that I have come to enjoy.

Christ's Sufferings and Glories the Old Testament

“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:25-27

The Lord, when speaking to the two on the road to Emmaus, reminded them of how the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow are central to the Old Testament scriptures. The Jewish mind tended to overlook those scriptures concerning His sufferings, and focused only on the glories. The sufferings of Christ AND the glories that should follow. The word 'and' covers 2000 years. This was a great stumbling block to Israel who was looking for a flashy appearance.

The first prophetic mention of the sufferings of Christ is in the third chapter of Genesis:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

The “seed” of the serpent is none other than that wicked generation which cried “away with him, crucify him!” The woman’s "seed" refers to Christ (see Gal. 4:4). The prophetic scripture looked on to the time when Christ, the man of God’s councils, would crush the serpent’s head. But in the same sentence, it was added that Serpent would bruise His heel. This "bruising" is the first specific mention of the sufferings of Christ; although we might have an earlier picture in Genesis 2 with Adam’s deep sleep.

Later in the Pentateuch we read of thousands of sacrifices, which all speak of Christ and His sufferings. Why so many different animals? It is because no single animal could give the full type of our suffering Savior. For example; in the bullock we see strength, in the lamb we see meekness, in the goat we see vitality, and in the bird we see that the sacrifice has come down from heaven.

The Old Testament prophets themselves did not understand the subject that they handled by the Spirit of God. 

“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Pet. 1:9-12

They wrote these prophecies down, and then read them in puzzlement. They realized their message was not for them, but for people that should be born after. The “best wine”; i.e. the full understanding was left for us who have the Spirit of God. Peter says that these are the "things the angels desire to look into". They are intensely interested in the willingness of their Master to subject Himself to shame and suffering, and of the heights of glory for which He is destined. We need to approach this immense subject with the same interest yet holy reverence that the angels have as they desire to look into them.



There are a number of aspects to the sufferings of Christ, which are important to distinguish. For example, the sufferings of Jesus on the cross at the hands of man did not take away our sins, but those in the three hours of darkness at the hands of God made atonement. I will look at seven aspects of Christ's sufferings. This is by no means more than an introduction to this vast and sacred subject.

Aspect #1. Moral Sufferings

These sufferings were what the Lord felt because of who He was in this world of sin. We see this never so clearly as in John 11, at the grave of Lazarus. 

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled." (John 11:33)

Here we find Jesus suffering in His spirit because of the effects of sin in God's creation. He saw the sorrow that death had brought to Mary and the others, and it troubled him. 

"Jesus weptThen said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!" (John 11:35-36)
Here we find Christ suffering personally, not so much in feeling the sorrow brought to others by sin, but feeling the loss Himself as a man, because the one whom He loved had died.

"And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave." (John 11:37-38)

Here we find Him suffering upon feeling the callousness produced in the hearts of others, the sisters of Bethany, who not only misunderstood Him (like Mary and Martha) but positively disbelieved Him. Their words produced the second groan from the heart of Jesus.

In this aspect of suffering we can "suffer with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). In Matthew 5 we find that one of the beatitudes is a mournful spirit concerning the low moral condition around us.

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4)
The Lord felt the low moral condition in Israel more than anyone else. There was nothing else the man from heaven could do when he saw this world of sin and suffering, but mourn. Even Lot, who was in a very compromising position, suffered in part with what was fully felt by the Lord;

“For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Peter 2:8)

When Jesus saw religious corruption it produced moral suffering. On the Sabbath, the true moral condition of the hard-hearted Jews was manifested. They had no love for the man with a withered hand, because they would readily break the Sabbath if their own commercial interests were at stake, but not the welfare of their fellow man. But Jesus,

When he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark 3:5)


Aspect #2. Sympathetic Sufferings

We now come to another aspect; the sufferings of Christ as He sympathized with others in their circumstances. There are at least two reasons for these sufferings: (1) His heart of love, and (2) that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest.

Carrying the Sorrows and Cares of Others

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." (Isa. 53:4)
This prophetic scriptures speak of how the Messiah would pass through the sorrows and griefs of life so as to be able to sympathize with His people. He carried the sorrows and cares of others on His heart. This scripture is quoted in Matthew in connection with the Lord's physically healing the crowds.

“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." (Matt. 8:16-17)

This gives us a remarkable insight into the healings performed by our Lord. He bore on His heart the suffering of those whom he healed. It wasn't like a rich man handing out nickels... at no cost to Himself. No, every sorrow and grief He relieved was carried on His heart. What a comfort!

Fitting Him to be a Sympathetic High Priest

Now we come to the second reason; Christ's sympathetic sufferings prepared Him to be a sympathetic High Priest to those who believe on Him.

"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. ... that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. ... For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 2:10, 17-18; 4:15)

It is fitting for a captain in the army to have gone through the routines that a soldier goes through, so that when he gives commands, he can do so having perfect understanding of the experience. The captain would never ask his solders to do something that he wouldn’t do himself or hasn’t gone through himself. There isn’t anything we can go through that he doesn’t understand. That’s the kind of captain that God has prepared for us.

Connection between Sympathetic and Atoning Sufferings

It is interesting that all through scripture these sufferings are mentioned often connected with his atoning sufferings. Yet they are clearly distinct from one another.

Reference Sympathetic Part Atoning Part
Hebrews 2:17  “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest”  “to make propitiation for the sins of the people”
Hebrews 2:10;15  “make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings”
 “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”
Isaiah 53:4-5  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows”  “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities”
Isaiah 63:9  “In all their affliction he was afflicted”  “in his love and in his pity he redeemed them”


Aspect #3. Official Sufferings

Now we reach a third class of sufferings that are connected not so much with the Person of our Lord, but with His messianic office. When the Lord came into this world, He had a people because He came according to the seed of David.

Denied a Place of Acceptance

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11)

What a welcome He might have expected as the rightful King of Israel. But He was utterly rejected. There was no room for him in the inn. As he walked the dusty paths of Judea, the hatred of the Jews was progressively aroused until they fully intend to kill. The Lord’s faithfulness only yielded rejection. Here was Jehovah of the Old Testament, the one who had borne with their murmurings and backslidings, now as a man, on earth! He speaks of the reproach He suffered from His own people, for His faithfulness to Jehovah.

“I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” (Psalm 69:8-9)

Denied His Rights as Messiah

Not only was He denied acceptance from His own people, but He was denied the rightful privileges that belonged to Him.

"I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations." (Psa. 102:24)

"And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing..." (Dan. 9:26)

In Psa. 102 we have the voice of the Messiah as a man on earth, with all in ruins around Him, and the cross before Him. All that naturally belonged to Him as Messiah was outwardly on the verge of being lost. In His distress He cries out that God would not take Him out in the middle of His life, before He could accomplish the redemption of Israel. The answer from Jehovah is precious; "Thy years are from generation to generation." But, as a man, He was cut off (Dan. 9:26), and "had nothing" of those messianic rights that belonged to Him.

Watched His Beloved City Seal their Fate

As the rightful Messiah, He suffered in being denied His heart's desire toward the Jews, and in knowing what they were about to lose when His presence was removed from them. He could lament over Jerusalem, that city which He loved:

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye shall in no wise see me henceforth until ye say, Blessed be he that comes in the name of the Lord." (Matt. 23:37-39)


Aspect #4. Interpersonal Sufferings

The next class of sufferings I would like to address are Christ's emotional, social, or interpersonal sufferings. 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.

Treachery from the ruling class

“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)

The contradiction of sinners refers to the constant ill-treated directed toward the Savior. Routinely, they would strategized 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, where He says;

"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. 

“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)

Yet the denial, when it finally came, wounded the Lord's heart. He felt all these interpersonal things more deeply than we feel them. This is because He did not 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 they 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). Our Lord's darkest hour was fast approaching, and His own disciples forsook him.

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's 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's 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 in anticipating betrayal by one of His closest friends. But 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)

"And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love." (Psa. 109:5)

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.

Hatred without Cause

As human beings, we all have two basic needs; (1) to be loved, and (2) 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 barbs of every hateful foe.

“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)

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.

“They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.” (Psalm 69:20)

Did He feel it? There hatred was without cause, their enmity was wrong... but did that discount the suffering it caused our Blessed Lord? No.

“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness.” (Psalm 69:12)

Dehumanizing Treatment

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psalm 22:18)

As He hung on the cross, the soldiers divided His garments into four parts (one for each soldier) and gambled for His coat. This was all done before His very eyes. One great thing that differentiates humans from animals is that we wear clothing. But those last memoirs of human identity were stripped from Him.

"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)

Another form of dehumanizing treatment was the games they played at His expense (and we might add, to their eternal loss). 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.

"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)

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 mean time, the Lord suffered these indignities in humble patience.

"They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." (Psa. 69:21)

On the cross, to a hungry and thirsty Man they taunted Him with gall and vinegar. Gall is a bitter and poisonous plant, perhaps the Poppy, which grows abundantly in Palestine. Vinegar or "bile" was wine that had gone bad and become nauseous and unfit to drink. It was offered to those who were about to die in mockery (Luke 23:36), 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. Note: it is a different word "vinegar" used in Matt. 27:48 and John 19:30. They were not content with merely refusing 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.

"And sitting down they watched him there; ... And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads." (Matt. 27:36, 39)

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.

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 gives several scriptural reasons why He could not save Himself; all of which are well supported by scripture.

Himself He could not save; because He must:
  1. Satisfy the righteous claims of a Holy God:
For justice must be done;
Our sins' full weight must fall
Upon the sinless One;
  1. Stand in our place, as our Substitute, and our Surety:
For He the Surety stood,
For all who now rely,
Upon His precious blood;
  1. 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!


Aspect #5. Martyrdom Sufferings

We now come to a fifth aspect of Christ's sufferings. The martyrdom sufferings of Christ are what He suffered as an innocent victim of man's cruelty. These sufferings were physical, but we must remember that the Lord perfectly felt the wicked intentions behind the physical pain that men inflicted on His body. 

Also, when making a dichotomy between the Lord's physical sufferings and atoning sufferings we must be clear that the atoning sufferings had a physical component as well. He bore our sins "in His own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24). Not only that, but Hebrews 10:10 says "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all". Furthermore, when Christ was forsaken of God, He cried "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me"... He refers to Himself; spirit, soul, and body. This is why I chose the term "martyrdom sufferings"; to be clear, we are speaking of those physical sufferings of our Lord at the hands of men.

It is not my purpose to go into extreme detail on the physical sufferings of Christ. Much of it we are not told. In Christendom there is often an unscriptural emphasis laid on the physical sufferings of Christ as a martyr. Many attribute the work of atonement to the martyrdom sufferings, but that a false notion. In fact, an entire movie has been produced, titled "The Passion of Christ" in which the physical sufferings of Christ are highlighted. But all those sufferings never atoned for one sin. The atoning work was done in three hours of darkness; it was hidden from the eyes of men.

The First Occurrence

The first occurrence of physical violence to our Lord's Person is referenced in John 18. Incidentally, reading this verse was what triggered a heightened interest in me to study this subject.

“And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?” (John 18:22)

For the very first time, the Son of God was struck by a human being. Standing before the high priest, having been falsely accused, an officer strikes him with the palm of his hand. What sorrow passed through His heart at that moment? He had given that officer breath and strength. That man’s very existence was owed to the blessed Lord who stood before him. There it happened, with all of heaven’s hosts looking down, for the first time, the Creator purposely injured by His creature. As angelic hosts awaited His call, how their hearts must have panged at the sight… heaven’s Beloved One struck by a sinful, mortal man.

Abuse in the Judgment Halls

The abuse only continued in the trials of our Lord. Next we read slapping, spitting, and beard-plucking, which are quite personal forms of torture. What was the Lord’s disposition? He gave himself to it; a willing victim.

“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)

Then we come to the torture He suffered at the hands of the Romans. Firstly, the scourging. The scourging here is the Roman flogging that was preliminary to every execution. Only women and Roman soldiers would be exempted. The victim was repeatedly lashed across the back with a short whip made of several leather strips, into which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied. The iron balls caused deep contusions. The sharp pieces tore long furrows.

"Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him.” (John 19:1)

“The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.” (Psalm 129:3)

One solider alternating positions or two soldiers at a time would administer the punishment. Often the soldiers would gauge the victim's strength and blood loss to determine the number of stripes. 

"And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand... and they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head." (Matt. 27:29-30)

In mockery of His claim to David's throne, a crown of thorns was woven, and placed upon His blessed head. A wooden reed was placed in His hand a mock scepter; then is was taken, and used to beat the thorns into His brow.

The Crucifixion

"And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called [the place] of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha." (John 19:17)

"And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross." (Matt. 27:32)

It was the common practice to force the condemned man to carry his own cross to the place of execution. Jesus began that torturous path, but once the had exited the city walls His burden was transferred to Simon. Likely this was because the scourging had physically weakened the Lord, and the soldiers did not want Him to collapse before the crucifixion. This gives us an indication of the intensity of the torture the Lord had already endured up to this point.

They crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” (John 19:18)

Crucifixion was used for slaves, pirates, and enemies of the state. It was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die. Condemned Roman citizens were usually exempt from crucifixion except for major crimes against the state, such as high treason. The victim was either tied or more often nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead. Iron spikes were driven between the wrist bone, and ankle bones. Gravity prevented the victim from using the chest muscles to breathe. Shallow breathing was only possible using the abdominal muscles. A painful pushing up with the legs was required to exhale. The intention was to inflict rapidly increasing pain to achieve a prolonged, agonizing death. Death usually came by asphyxiation which was hastened in some cases by breaking of the legs below the knee, as was the case with the thieves.

His Death as a Martyr

We must remember that the life of the Lord Jesus was not taken from Him. In Exodus 12:46 we read; “Neither shall ye break a bone thereof…” Not a bone of the Passover lamb was to be broken. This scripture is quoted in John 19:33-36 in connection with the Lord being dead before the soldiers reached Him with their clubs. To break a bone of the lamb would introduce the thought of “crushing” or forcibly ending life. It was imperative that Christ lay down His own life in obedience to His Fathers will (John 10:18). No man took it from Him.

And yet, while no man took His life from Him, God holds man responsible for their intentions... murder. Accordingly, in the book of Revelation, Jesus appears as "a lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6). The symbol of a "slain lamb" has the idea of an innocent victim subjected to a violent death. It says in Zech. 12:10 that Israel "shall look upon me whom they have pierced". God holds them responsible.

In Philippians 2, we find that death - and specifically, the death of the cross - was the ultimate humiliation for our Lord. 

"And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Phil. 2:8)

The cross in scripture is always the symbol of shame in the eyes of the world. But far be it from the Christian to boast in anything that this world glories in. Our only boast is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 6:14), because we owe all our peace, our blessings, our security to that work which He accomplished.

By crucifying the Lord between two malefactors, His enemies were associating Him with evildoers. The difference between Jesus and the thieves is summarized best in the words of the repentant thief; "we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:41). This indignity was suffered by our blessed Lord until His death. After He bowed His head and gave up His spirit, a Roman spear pierced His side (evidently an action taken by one of the four soldiers to verify that He was really dead, John 19:32-34) and "immediately there came out blood and water". After this, men had the wicked intention of throwing His blessed body in a criminal's grave, but the Father saw to it the only hands that touched His body were kind and loving ones. Even His tomb was fit for a king!

"And men appointed his grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, neither was there guile in his mouth." (Isa. 53:9)



All of Christ's sufferings that we have touched on thus far (moral, sympathetic, official, interpersonal, martyrdom) did not take away even one sin. What Christ endured all through His lifetime, His public ministry, and up until 12:00 o'clock noon on that Passover day was more than our paltry minds can take in... and yet it was not even a drop in the ocean of what He suffered in those three hours of darkness. This is what we are coming to soon; the atoning sufferings. But first, that suffering which Christ endured as He anticipated those three hours.

Aspect #6. Anticipative Sufferings

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, I both have glorified and will glorify it again.  (John 12:27-28)

The setting of this verse is the Lord's entry into Jerusalem five days before the Passover. Here the Lord Jesus looked forward to "this hour", which refers to the hour of His atoning sufferings. The thought of being "made sin" caused His soul to be troubled deeply. And yet the Lord's purpose up until that moment was to glorify the Father's name; and so He would not officially make request for an exemption from the cross. 

Four days later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, we find that His anticipative sufferings have intensified. The cross and the atoning sufferings were closing in quickly, and the picture is much darker still. The Lord then requests exemption, and yet He adds "if it be possible" and "nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done". Also, in John 12 He gets an audible answer, "a voice out of heaven" which looked on to the Lord’s resurrection. But at Gethsemane the Lord could only pronounce that it was “your hour, and the power of darkness”.

“And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?” Mark 14:33-37

The English expression "exceeding sorrowful" is one Greek word, peri-lupos, which literally means, 'surrounded with sorrow.' Apart from this occasion, the Lord's will was always the same as His Father's will. Here, an nowhere else, we find that the Son's will was different. Why? Because He could not find His "meat" or satisfaction in the wrath of God. And yet, the Lord could say;
  • "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me" (John 4:34)
  • "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30)
  • "I came down... not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38)
He would have shrunk back from the cup if he could have done so consistent with His Father’s will. But His love and devotion to His Father was stronger than every other motivation.

In the extremity of His anticipative sufferings, Jesus cried out Abba Father”. This is the only recorded place where Jesus used the word “Abba”, which is the old Aramaic word for 'father' in the intimate sense, similar to the English word 'daddy'. It’s speaks of the closeness of the relationship a child has with his father. How striking that this is the word the Lord uses in crying to His Father in anticipation of the atoning sufferings! He calls on His Father in that most intimate way, pleading for exemption, if that were possible. "All things are possible unto thee” - the Lord appeals to the power of God, as well as His love. All the power of God would not avail to take away one sin; a sacrifice was necessary!

In His anticipative sufferings we see our Lord's perfection as a man. The more He felt the depths of the dreadful cup, the "more earnestly" He prayed. Both the prayers and sufferings rose in intensity, to a point where Luke says that Jesus was "in an agony" and "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). This fact demonstrates the reality of His sufferings. So intense were the sufferings in His soul and mind that blood vessels began to burst. It isn't that His sweat fell merely in the same way great drops of blood fall, but that His sweat was so mingled with blood that it might have seemed to be pure blood falling to the ground.

We have mentioned our Lord's having a troubled soul, His being sore amazed, His soul being exceeding sorrowful unto death; His agony, and His sweat mingled with blood. But He also shed tears.

“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:7-9)

Jesus had taken three disciples with Him to pray. He desired their company, if not their sympathy in His sufferings. But coming to them, He found that they were asleep. “Couldest thou not watch one hour?” He doesn't ask us to 'understand' the cost to Him; but simply to 'watch with Him'. I would like to make an application of this to us today. If we are going through life carelessly sinning, it is because we are asleep. We are not watching with Him; for, if we were, we would be “sore amazed” as we consider what our sins cost the blessed Savior. In 1804 Thomas Kelly included this thought in the following verses of his beloved hymn, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”:

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.

Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.


Aspect #7. Atoning Sufferings

What we are taking up now is the judgment which our sins brought on Christ in those three hours of darkness. At Gethsemane the Lord came to terms with his Father about the cross, but at Calvary he paid the debt. For all the sufferings that came before this awful hour, our minds can only begin to comprehend. But that which Christ suffered to make expiation for sin transcends the powers of the human mind, and confines of the human heart. 

Himself Bearing Our Sins in His Own Body

Our sins were laid upon Christ in a similar way that the sins of the people were confessed on the head of the sacrifice. 

His Soul Made an Offering for Sin


Himself a Propitiation

The 

Bearing away the Sin of the World

It wasn't 

Made Sin for us

Only a holy God could know the horror of Christ's being made sin, who knew no sin.

“The sufferings of Christ in His body (real as they were), the insults and upbraidings of men, were but the preface of His affliction, which, by depriving Him as man of all consolation, left Him wholly in the place of judgment as made sin, to His sufferings in connection with the judgment of sin, when the God who would have been His full comfort was, as forsaking Him, the source of sorrow which left all the rest as unfelt and forgotten.” - JND

H

The Abandonment

He said to His disciples earlier that night, Ye “shall leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me” (John 16:32). 

“My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?”
He was completely alone in this suffering. In Psalm 22 he contrasts himself with other believers: They trusted, and thou didst deliver them? But HE was forsaken. This kind of suffering works expiation, atonement. And so his sufferings from man do not make up part of his atoning sufferings. It is true that the sufferings from man culminated at the very same point where wrath is also found (the cross), but they reach their limit there, all stop totally and wholly in their nature short of the wrath of God.

“Christ stood as sin before God… and God dealt with sin (as Christ was surely made sin) in His holy majesty and divine righteousness against sin – this stands alone, and woe be to him who does not know it.” – JND

And all this He suffered for sinners like me. His agony of soul is described: "Save me from the lion's mouth!"

Why does scripture spend so much time on Christ's sufferings from the hands of man? Perhaps because we can relate to them? They show us how truly Jesus was fully a man. Also, it help us in our minds transition to the atoning sufferings.


Differences between Sufferings at the Hands of Men and God

The Causes of His Sufferings

The first distinction we make when coming to this subject is the source of Christ’s sufferings. Some were at the hands of men, some at the hands of God. From the hands of men, the sufferings of Christ were because of righteousness. “Why slew Cain his brother? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

If the sufferings were at the hand of God, it couldn’t be for righteousness, because God is righteous. Therefore, these sufferings were because of sin. Whose sin? Not his… He did no sin (Peter), He knew no sin (Paul), and there was no sin in Him (John). Rather, God made Him to be sin for us (who knew no sin), that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. On the cross He suffered “the just for the unjust” that He might bring us to God. There was no cause in himself for the judgment of God… so he could say, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The Effects of His Sufferings

The effect of His suffering the hand of God is an unending stream of blessing. The effect of His suffering at the hands of men is judgment upon men. Also, Christ suffered for sin in our place. He did it so we never would have to do it ourselves. However, in that He suffered for righteousness, we share in those sufferings in some measure ourselves.

Psalm 69 vs. Psalm 22

In Psalm 69 we see the remnant (and in type the Lord) in the deepest distress, sinking in deep mire, in the midst of numerous and mighty enemies who hate him without a cause. Whatever sins may be dealt with, personally He has been faithful. The zeal even of God's house has eaten Him up, and He is suffering reproach for the God of Israel's sake. He prays that “those that seek thee” would not “be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel”. The fact that one who is so faithful to God could be in such suffering and peril might be a stumbling block if victory over his enemies never finally came. But He is not forsaken of God. Instead, His prayer to Jehovah is “in an acceptable time” and he can “look to be heard in the multitude of God's mercies and the truth of His salvation” (v.16). His complaint is of His enemies, and His desire is for vengeance against men. He does see in the reproach and distress Himself smitten of God (that is, God is allowing this), and circumstantially he prays that Jehovah’s face would not be hidden from him. But this is not atoning sufferings.

In Psalm 22 the sufferings of Christ go far deeper. Christ had suffered terribly at the hands of men: “dogs” had compassed Him (Gentile soldiers), and “strong bulls of Bashan” beset him round (corrupt Jewish leaders). These things he felt so keenly because it was completely unrighteous and for Jehovah's sake. True, others had borne a similar character of sufferings (in a measure), but they trusted in Jehovah and they were delivered. But here we see in Christ, the atoning sufferings, that great work which is the foundation of all blessing.

When others suffered they had a sense that God had never failed in one good thing that He had promised.

“But here was a suffering out of the reach of promise. It was a new scene, which none had been ever like, nor ever will be, in the history of eternity; which stands alone, The Righteous One forsaken of God. It cannot be repeated a second time.” - JND

His confidence in Psalm 69, in his sufferings at the hand of men, is “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time”. But in Psalm 22, his sorrowful conclusion is “but thou hearest not”.

The Weight of the Brass, the Weight of the Nails

“The weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold.” II Chronicles 3:9

“The weight of the brass could not be found out.” II Chronicles 4:18

Nails might speak of the sufferings of Christ at the hands of men. Brass is scripture is always a picture of God’s righteous judgment. He could say, “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass” - God’s judgment against sin, “and the earth that is under thee shall be iron” - Roman cruelty (Deuteronomy 28:23). Speaking of the judge walking between the candlesticks, his feet were “like unto fine brass”. While the weight of the nails could be measured, the weight of the brass could not be found out.