God, in His Word, calls us to consider today in the most solemn and spiritual manner the sufferings of His Son, Jesus Christ. By those sufferings Christ has delivered His children from damnation and eternal hell and obtained for them righteousness and life eternal.
God’s Son became incarnate. That is, the Son of God came down from heaven and took upon Himself our earthly flesh in order that His children, through His death, might go to heaven. He became a servant in order that we might become kings. He died in order that we might live. He suffered so that we might reign. He was cursed in order that we might be blest. He descended into hellish sufferings so that His children might sit in heavenly places.
Now the Lord Himself calls us to consider those sufferings. We read in Lamentations 1:12 these words: “Is it nothings to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.”
Those words were written by the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the prophet who saw the actual destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the cruelty inflicted upon her by the invader-cruelties inflicted upon maidens and youth. He saw years of bitterness and the captivity of Jerusalem by Babylon. Yet, unmistakably we hear in Jeremiah’s words the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ Himself calls out in those verses that we would contemplate in our souls His suffering. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me.” Those words apply to Jesus Christ.
Christ, in those words, calls us to put away all thoughts of ourselves-thoughts of possessions, families, trials, and all the rest-because, if we do not understand His sufferings for us, we will never have life. Is it nothing to you, He asks? Do you say, it is dry work to listen to the truths of Scripture concerning the sufferings of the Son of God? Is there nothing there to strike your attention? Your soul is not stirred? There is nothing there to awaken your interest? Other things are more captivating to you? Perhaps the things you read in the paper, things concerning sports or movies. You would rather dig into a technical problem or spend your time and hours reading the stories of this life. You have no interest in the Son of God who suffered upon the cross, the Son of God who loved His own and gave Himself in your place so that you might have eternal salvation? You see, lack of interest in the sufferings of Jesus Christ is nothing less than the madness and the blindness of our own sin. Every other subject is a trifle when it is compared to the eternal truth of the sufferings of Christ. Why is that so? Because, you see, those sufferings show us the amazing grace and the love of God for us.
How can we ever know the depth and the heights of the love of God to us? We cannot know that unless that we sit still and think hard and long on this: He suffered and was crucified. We hear those words, perhaps, very often. But it must never become an accustomed thing. God so loved His people, His church, that He gave His only begotten Son to be a worm, despised of all, buried under the wrath of God under our sins, in order that we might be made higher than the angels, in order that we might be made a sweet-smelling savor to God and made heirs of everlasting life and righteousness.
Still more, those sufferings are so important for us to consider because those sufferings show us our sin and our depravity. Who brought these sufferings upon Him? Why were these sufferings necessary? Did the Jews simply bring these sufferings upon Him-the chief priests and Pharisees who despised and hated Him so? Is that the ultimate reason for His sufferings? The answer of the Bible is different. The answer of the Bible is this: for our sin. And the believer says, “for my sins.” Isaiah 53:4, 5, Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:… our iniquities were placed upon Him. How serious, then, is the matter of sin? There is nothing more horrible then to contemplate the sufferings of Jesus Christ. But, you see, those sufferings simply point to the reality of the horribleness of sin. There was no other way for our sins to be removed than the way of the suffering of the Son of God in our flesh. So dreadful is the truth of sin, so awful are our sins, that nothing other than the death of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, could ever wash them away.
Still more. The sufferings of Jesus Christ are so important to understand because those sufferings make us love and admire Him, and desire to serve Him. He gave Himself up. He gave Himself up to the sufferings which were due to us, which we could never have endured. And He did that voluntarily because He loved His own. John 13:1, “… having loved his own … he loved them unto the end.”
So, the question is: Do you have an interest in this? Have you a part in the salvation which those sufferings have obtained? Then, from the heart, you will turn your ear eagerly to hear of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
When we speak of the sufferings of Jesus we might receive the wrong impression and begin to think that the sufferings of Jesus Christ were limited to certain moments of His life and especially to the end of His life upon the cross. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess these words (the Apostles’ Creed being the historic statement of the Christian faith): “He suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Perhaps we think, from those words, that His sufferings were limited to a certain segment of His life, especially those sufferings brought on Him by Pontius Pilate, who sentenced Him to the death of the cross. But that is not the case.
The Scriptures teach us plainly that Jesus Christ, all the time that He lived upon the earth but especially at the end of His life, suffered for our sins. His sufferings under Pontius Pilate were a very significant part of His sufferings. He had to suffer under Pilate if He was to be crucified. For, according to the law, that type of punishment could only be inflicted upon Him by the Roman government. And it was God’s will that He be crucified.
Still more. It had to be declared by man, by a man who was representative of man’s government, that Jesus Christ was, indeed, innocent. It was Pontius Pilate who made the declaration: “I find no fault in Him.” Pilate declared Christ to be innocent. The sufferings of Jesus Christ under Pontius Pilate establish one crucial fact concerning the sufferings of Christ. That fact is this: Jesus did not suffer for His own misdeeds or sins. He had none. He could say to the Jews in John 8: Which of you convicteth Me of any sin? For whatever He suffered, whatever it was, it not due to any sin, to any fault or failure, which was to be found in Christ Himself. He was declared, by God above all, but also by the Roman governor (man), to be innocent. There was no fault in Him.
The sufferings of Jesus Christ, however, must not be limited to a certain segment of His life-to one day or to one hour or to the cross. Christ, from His very birth to His death, was a sufferer. Every moment of His earthly life He endured the wrath of God against the sins of others, against the sins of those whom the Father had given, that Jesus Christ should bear them upon His heart. His life can be summed, as far as His experience on earth is concerned, in the words: He suffered. Understand that very well. There was laid upon Him the iniquities of all of God’s children. All that we deserved-the eternal sorrow and curse that we deserved due to our sins-was placed upon His shoulders. It was all counted out and put upon Him. The hot coals of judgment which were ours He took and carried. And He put them out by enduring them upon the cross.
We might say, what is it that is unique in Christ that He suffered. Is that not true, more or less, of every individual on this earth? Is there not much suffering in this world? In fact, we cannot grasp how much suffering there is. The Bible tells us in Genesis 3 that, due to the curse of God upon man and upon the ground, this human life will be spent under suffering so that suffering is not the exception but the norm. There is the anguish of death. An eight-year-old loses his mother in a sudden death. A father weeps over the coffin of his sixteen-year-old son. A woman has her soul-mate of forty or fifty years taken from her. There is not only the anguish and suffering of death, but there is also the anguish of pain, the anguish of those in a burn-unit of a hospital who spend hours and days in misery. There are the hospitals which are filled with the suffering of little children. Then, there is the anguish of mind-depression. There are mental asylums, and the shrieks of those who are insane. There is much suffering.
But, understand, when we confess that Jesus Christ suffered, we do not mean to say that he added His name to a long list of others who went before Him and who have followed Him. Nor are we even saying that His physical sufferings were the most extreme that anyone ever endured. But we say that His sufferings are unique in this: that He stood in the place of others and that He suffered the just wrath of God that they deserved for their sins, which is even the just wrath of an eternal damnation in hell.
Consider the fact of who this is that suffered-God’s Son, the perfect and the blessed Son of God. This Son of God came into our flesh and willingly covered Himself in the shame and in the curse of His children. The One whom the angels delight to worship; the One who is King of kings and Lord of Lords; the One who in Isaiah 9 is called the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace; the One before whom all the hallelujahs of heaven roll up at His feet-this One willingly covered Himself in our sufferings. He became the sufferer for those who, of themselves, are worthless sinners-because of the love of God.
Still more, the uniqueness was that He was the holy Jesus. Sin, for us, is a way of life. Man lives in the noxious fumes and eats the rottenness of sins as the normal fare and daily occurrence of his life. But Jesus is holy. His soul was continually affronted and taken aback with sin, as if He stepped upon thorns all His life long. He was the holy One who breathed the pure oxygen of the love and holiness of God. And He came to live in this world of evil. Something of that experience is the experience of the child of God. When the child of God is given the spirit of holiness and the love of God in him, then he no longer looks upon sin as an accustomed thing but he is struck in his heart and shocked by the horror of sin. Now, consider Him who was perfect, who was perfectly holy in all of His being, as He journeyed in this world, a world of sin.
But the uniqueness of the sufferings of Jesus Christ are to be found in this consideration. As I said, He suffered, from the hand of God, the wrath that our sins deserved. The Scriptures teach very plainly that Jesus suffered in the place of the elect of God, that is, those whom God had chosen, whom He had predetermined to belong to Jesus Christ, by an election which was found only in the heart of God and which was not conditioned by anything that He found in them. Jesus is very plain on that. In John 10, for example, in verses 11 and 15, He says that He lays down His life for the sheep. He goes on in that chapter to say that not all are His sheep. To the unbelieving Pharisees He says, in verse 26, “But ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” The reason you do not believe, says Jesus, is that you are not of my sheep. He says, further, concerning those sheep, in verses 28, 29, that it was the Father who gave to Him the sheep.
So, Jesus did not die for all men. He did not bear the penalty for every conceivable sinner. He stood in the place, and He bore the penalty of the sheep, and the sheep are those whom the Father, out of mere grace, gave to Jesus to be saved. Yet, Jesus Christ died for mankind, that is, the elect of God out of the entire human race. When those elect sheep of Jesus Christ are saved by Christ, the human race in them is saved. The wrath of God which was owed to the people of God, that wrath Jesus Christ took upon Himself.
He bore that wrath in perfect obedience before God as He stood in the place of all those whom the Father had given to Him, a multitude, says the book of Revelation, which no man can number, out of every nation, tribe, and tongue. As He bore that wrath He did so in perfect obedience to the Father. As the Father pressed the hot coals of His wrath against our sins upon the bosom of His own Son, His Son responded, “Father, in their place I not only bear it, but, Father, in their place, I love Thee.”
The hill of Calvary, then, causes us to see how serious our sins are-the sins which we are prone to brush off as inconsequential. After all, what is the big thing about sin? We cannot take that attitude when we stand before the cross and we see that the sufferings of Jesus Christ are brought upon Him because of our sin and what those sins deserve. And into that hell of the wrath of God Jesus Christ willingly gave Himself in order that they for whom He died would never enter into that hell of wrath.
We are made partakers of this blessing by the gift of faith whereby we believe and repent from our sins. All those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and do not repent and turn from their sins, they shall fall into the hell of God’s wrath and perish eternally. That is the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
Can we ever comprehend it? Can we ever express our thanks to Him for it? God’s Son took upon Himself our sins in order that we might be freed from the penalty of our sins and be made righteous before God. That is the gospel. And that is the gospel we are called upon today to believe and to embrace by a true and living faith.
Jesus Christ did not suffer and die as do others. But it was the King of glory who was covered in shame, the shame which belonged to God’s children, in order that those children might be clothed in garments of everlasting righteousness and peace.
Repent from your sins. Believe the gospel and find the sure and only refuge which is to be found in this truth: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered and died for my sins in order that I might live eternally with God.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious and holy Word. We pray that we might love Him with heart and soul and being. And that we may ever live in the assurance and in the blessedness of Thy perfect love for us which is displayed in this: Thou hast given Thy Son to suffer in order that we might live and reign with Thee for ever. Amen.