What Kind of Person was Jesus in His Suffering?
We know what kind of person Jesus was in His life. Words like kind, compassionate, loving, watchful, patient, or focused could all be applied to Him. We have seen Him heal the sick, command demons, rebuke religious teachings that strayed from His Father’s heart- Jesus even raised someone from the dead! We tend to focus on these stories about Jesus because they encourage us in ways we need comforted here and now. Jesus stood up for the marginalized, was strong for the weak and blessed those whom society found little or no value in.
But what kind of person was Jesus in seasons of suffering? One of the passages in the Bible that help frame our understanding of His suffering can be found in Isaiah 53:3,
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as on from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
What a characterization for the Son of God! As each step in this final week, this Passion week led Jesus toward the cross to face death, the journey would be touched with suffering. Part of our own Christian walk, in Jesus’ steps, is also touched with suffering. We are all either presently touched by suffering, have been or will be. One phone call can change everything. One blood test. One accident. A series of poor choices even- can bring suffering into our lives or the lives of those we love.
The crowds- even the disciples- knew and loved Jesus for all that He had done in their lives. Yet, when Jesus would suffer, they would look the other way or hide their faces. Why is that?
We don’t like suffering. We naturally look away from it or keep it at a safe distance from us.
Yet, following Jesus or not, suffering is a part of our Human story. No life is lived without it. Why? The answer lies in the final moments of Jesus’ journey to the cross.
Jesus’ Suffering along the Journey to the Cross:
Betrayal. Matthew 26:47-50. Jesus experienced the betrayal of one who walked with Him for 3 years. They did life together. Maybe you know what it is to be betrayed? Maybe you were the one who betrayed another?
Abandonment. Matthew 26:51-56. One of the Disciples, Peter, would draw a sword to fight for Jesus; yet was told to put the sword back. God could intervene; but is not. In John 18:11, Jesus said it was the cup which the Father had provided Him to drink from. Have you ever experienced, or felt abandoned by everyone? Or maybe it was an experience by someone who really hurt you- and you still feel the scar. Or perhaps, you were one who abandoned another?
Bullying. Matthew 26:57-68. In a mock trial, Jesus was witnessed against falsely, suffering slander and abuse- both emotionally and physically. Have you ever experienced a lie against you? Have you ever suffered as a result? Maybe you were the one who lied and partook in the bullying of another?
Denial. Matthew 26:69-75. As all of this was happening to Jesus, Peter stood a distance on the promises he made to Jesus that while all would flee (Matthew 26:35), he would never abandon Jesus. Peter denied Jesus three times, remembering His words at the crowing of the rooster as Jesus turned to make eye contact with Peter (Luke 22:61). Have you ever experienced someone fail to stand up for you- someone you loved and trusted? Maybe you yourself filled that role in denying something in order to save your self- your own reputation?
Rejection. Matthew 27:15-23. The crowds moved by the influences of those who hated Jesus, chose a murderer named Barabbas to be freed while Jesus experience the judgment of crucifixion. Have you ever felt the weight of peer pressure against you? The pain of people going with the flow of judgment against you without knowing all of the facts- or all sides of the story? Perhaps you yourself just share tweets or meme’s, news reports on social media without the facts and end up hurting someone?
Crucifixion. Mockery. Death. Matthew 27:32-56. The crowds that followed Jesus’ journey to the hill called Golgotha mocked Him for the inability Jesus had to do anything to change this outcome. Jesus failed. God did not rescue Him. Jesus was wrong. Jesus was suffering justly because He was wrong. Have you questioned God when He doesn’t heal you or the ones you love? Have you ever felt His presence or absence in your suffering was qualified by your own effort or lack thereof? Do you yourself feel that suffering should not be a part of you life because you have chosen to follow Jesus?
This brings us back to the question of why is there suffering in this world?
This is where the shared Human Story of suffering comes to a fork in the road. The answer is sin.
“Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” -Romans 3:23
Acknowledging this and turning to Jesus can bring forgiveness for our sinful nature.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by is grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” -Romans 3:21-25
In that moment when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus bore the full weight of our sin and its judgment from God on our behalf. (Read the rest of Isaiah 53)
As people would turn their faces from Jesus because of His suffering, God turned His face from Jesus for He cannot behold sin (Leviticus 16 / Scapegoat; Isaiah 59:1-2). Because God is Holy, sin becomes a separation between us and Him. Jesus endured this on our behalf, without sin therefore providing forgiveness and eternal life with God for all who believe.
What Jesus endured on the cross brought us salvation. Yet the journey that led Him there is one that brought suffering into His life.
For you and I, if we sin after salvation we can know forgiveness and restoration (1 John 1:9). But our lives will be touched with suffering.
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Our world is not different than Jesus’ was. As we follow in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21), we will experience betrayal, abandonment, bullying, denial, rejection- even possibly death. But in all of this we can be assured that God is always in control and working all things for His Glory (Romans 8:28).
What kind of Person was Jesus in His Suffering? The same kind of Person He was when He wasn’t suffering. So in love with God that God Himself would always be enough, regardless the cost to obey and submit to Him.