The suffering of Jesus Christ
Many Christians begin the Easter season with a 40 day period preceding Easter Sunday commemorating and imitating in symbolic ways the historic suffering and death of Jesus. Some add spiritual disciplines, such as fasting and personal sacrifices, that are not part of their usual routine.
As far as history is concerned, more details are known about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and the last days of His life than any human being in history.
But as important as the historic records of Christ’s suffering and death may be, the theological facts in the scriptures explaining the purpose and blessings resulting from His suffering are much more important. The scriptures teach the intensity of the suffering of Christ extended far beyond the floggings of the whip and the excruciating pain of the cross. The stress and traumatic effects of pain, shame, betrayal and complete isolation from everything previously experienced would be greatly intensified if one had never experienced any level of them in any past existence. Jesus expressed this intensity in His words from the cross — “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
The most important theological fact the Bible teaches concerning the suffering of Jesus was that it was “substitutionary.” The prophet Isaiah wrote “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) And, in the New Testament, the apostle Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
In other words, Jesus did not suffer and die for any transgression of His own, but for the expressed purpose of offering Himself as an acceptable and legitimate substitute for the sins and transgressions of each one of us. The amazing concept of spiritual substitution could only be conceived in the mind of God.
The benefits of Christ’s substitutionary suffering to the human race are abundant throughout the pages of the New Testament. Two verses specifically illustrate these benefits. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich,” (2 Corinthians 8:9) and “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
What does all this mean? First, the resurrection of Jesus following His suffering and death provides evidence of who He was and of Gods’ incredible love for the human race. Secondly, the dying words of Jesus, “It is finished,” is a Divine declaration that the punishment for human transgressions has been fully executed and the human race exonerated from all guilt. Thirdly, it compels a personal response to God’s love with humble mind and a grateful spirit. These priceless blessings are applied in the personal experience of everyone who sincerely chooses to receive and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Pastor Gene Holman of Living Word Fellowship in Gardnerville is a member of Carson Valley Ministers’ Association