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THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
Pastor Dave Strem and James Skeen
WHAT DID HIS SUFFERING ACCOMPLISH?
As believers we often talk about the death of Jesus Christ and what it accomplished for us. But rarely does anyone talk about what His suffering accomplished. Was there a purpose for it? Why did He have to go through the beatings, the whippings, and mockings that preceded the cross? We know that we are redeemed by accepting the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on our behalf, but what does His suffering do for us? We know that the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ satisfied God's holiness and allowed Him to forgive repentant sinners, but what did Jesus Christ's sufferings do for God? Why was it necessary for Jesus Christ to suffer so much?
Isaiah 53 was written about 700 years before the time of Jesus Christ on earth. But amazingly, it describes the suffering and substitutionary death of the Messiah almost as if an eyewitness were describing it for us. This chapter is so important to our understanding of the events surrounding the Cross that we should read the entire chapter.
Who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power? My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected-a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins-that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave. But it was the Lord's good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs…. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins ... He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners.
MESSIAH'S SUFFERING AND SUBSTITUTIONARY DEATH
These verses describe the Messiah's suffering and substitutionary death. They can be thought of as two key but separate aspects of the last 12 hours of Jesus' earthly life. The suffering aspect is also called the "Passion." The term "passion" comes from the Latin word that means "to suffer." The passion of Christ is about the suffering of Jesus, specifically those twelve hours before His crucifixion and death.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He [Jesus] grew up before Him [the Father] like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground. And he [Jesus] had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and He carried our sorrows. Yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted.
IS JESUS A VICTIM?
I want you to catch what Isaiah is saying there. Unredeemed mankind looks upon Jesus as a victim of the Jews, or a victim of the Romans, or a victim of God's plan. But Jesus was not a victim! Jesus said it clearly in John chapter 10:17-18, "I lay down my life, no one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord." Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew the sufferings that awaited Him but He went forward, anyway!
Jesus in Matthew chapter 20 describes in detail what He knew about His immediate future: "The son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the teachers of the law and they will condemn him to death. And they will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised to life." Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen because He came for that purpose. Jesus was not a victim. I see Him as a steel-eyed courageous warrior with his face, as it says in Isaiah 50:7, set like flint. Stone-faced, knowing what He was going to endure. He ran the gauntlet of suffering and never sought to escape it.
THE DETAILS OF HIS SUFFERING
The suffering is described in detail in Isaiah 50:6. Isaiah 50:6: "I give my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pull out my beard. I do not hide from shame, for they mock me and spit in my face." Jesus willingly submitted Himself to suffering and death. He was not powerless to stop it. The Father put it into His hands (John 10:18) to say, No! He could have stopped anytime He wanted. He chose the difficult path because of what could be achieved. The Father watched the spectacle from heaven and restrained His powerful hand. These words from Isaiah 50:2-3 seem to apply: "Was I too weak to save you? Is that why the house is silent and empty when I come home? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish. I am the one who sends darkness out across the skies, bringing it to a state of mourning." Both the Father and the Son had the power to stop the suffering but chose not to.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS SUFFERING?
We can learn several things from the suffering and substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Look at Isaiah 53:5 again, "He was pierced for our transgressions." When was Jesus pierced?
Many would say when they put the nails in His hands, or wrists, but the primary reference is to the spear that the soldier stuck in His side. Why did the soldier pierce His abdomen with that spear? To kill him? No, He was already dead. He pierced Jesus' side for two reasons.
The first reason was known to the soldier and the second was not. The soldier pierced Jesus' side to prove that He was dead. The second reason laid in God's redemptive methods. Scripture declares that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
It is important to know that in the Old Testament the sacrifices ordained by God, which prefigured Christ's sacrifice, were to take place at a specific place in a specific manner. The death of the animal was not enough. The actual sacrifice involved more than just the death of the animal. The actual sacrifice involved the blood of the slain animal poured onto an altar, which signified God's holy presence. It was the purposeful offering of the life of another for the offer's sin. Without the pouring of the blood, the sacrifice was incomplete. In fact, without the pouring of the blood there was no sacrifice! Calvary was a holy place because God was there. It was the altar where God Himself brought our sacrifice for us. And it was at Calvary where the blood poured from Jesus' side for our redemption and forgiveness. Jesus was pierced so that the sacrifice would be complete.
THE DEPTH OF THE OPPOSITION TO JESUS, AND THE DEPTH OF GOD'S LOVE
We see two things in the suffering of Jesus. First, we see the depth of the opposition to Jesus by all who oppose God. The fury of human sin struck at Jesus and literally beat Him to death. The only thing that kept Him alive was His divine strength and the plan of God. In the end it was Jesus who gave up His spirit (Luke 23:46) to the Father. But it was human wickedness that shredded His body in order to mock and kill Him.
The second thing we see is the depth of God's love. He was so willing to redeem human sinners, and all of creation, that He Himself bore the burden of sin. I believe that until a person actually understands Who the Son of God was/is he or she will not completely appreciate the spectacle of Calvary. The same being that provoked the angels to hid their faces and cover their feet out of respect in Isaiah 6 is the same being who descended to earth to put on swaddling clothes, a crown of thorns, and nails through His hands. The descent of the Son from heaven's majesty to earth's depravity is beyond our understanding. But the words of a seventeenth century pastor, Thomas Traherne, paints such a picture of what happened at Calvary that we can begin to grasp the significance and depth of His love.
Is this He that was transfigured upon Mount Tabor? Pale, withered, extended, tortured, soiled with blood, and sweat, and dust, dried, parched! O sad, O dismal spectacle! All His joints are dissolved, all His blood is shed, to the last drop, all His moisture is consumed! What is here but a heap of desolations, a deformed carcass, a disfigured countenance! A mass of miseries and silence, footsteps of innumerable sufferings! Can this be a joy? Can this be an entertainment? Can this delight us? O Jesus, the more vile I here behold Thee, the more I admire Thee. Into what low abysses didst Thou descend, in what depths of misery dost Thou now lie! Oh what confusions, what stripes and wounds, what desolations and deformities didst Thou suffer for our sakes!
In all the depths of thy humiliation I here adore thee! I prize and desire always to see those stripes and those deformities. It is sweeter to be with Thee in thy sufferings, than with princes on their Thrones, and more do I rejoice with Thee in Thy misery, than in all their solemnities. I tremble also to see thy condescensions, the great effects and expressions of Thy love! Thou wast slain for me: and shall I leave Thy body in the field, O Lord? Shall I go away and be merry, while the Love of my soul, and my only Lover is dead upon the cross. Groans, here, in the sight and apprehension of thy love are beyond all melody, and the solemn sorrows of a loving Soul, a faithful friend, a tender Spouse, a deep and compassionate true Lover, beyond all the entertainments in the world. Thine O Jesus will I ever be while I have any being" (Centuries, pp. 45-46).
GOD GETTING DIRTY AND BLOODY
Traherne is describing God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, getting dirty and bloody to redeem all of creation back to Himself! What kind of monarch is this? What kind of monarch gives himself for the life of his subjects? God's love is beyond our ability to fully grasp. When we see Him as He truly is then we will know and we will love Him all the more!
The intensity of His pain was endured by the strength of His love. He could have been executed by stoning or by hanging or could have been stabbed in a crowd or when he was at a table talking with people. It could have been something clean and quick, but instead God designed it that you would see the depth of His love. He chose to endure brutal scourging so that we would know how much He loves us. He demonstrated how much He cares for us. Ephesians describes it in terms of marriage: "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her." Christ is looking out for us. He loves us and is working for our best. His suffering demonstrates the boundlessness of His love so that you might commit to follow Him and follow His example. Ephesians 5:1 says, "Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children." We are called to be imitators of God. And how do we know what God is like? We look at Jesus Christ who is the "visible image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). We are to live a life of love just as Jesus did!
HIS SUFFERING REVEALS THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN
His suffering reveals the seriousness of sin. Our sin is significant and it is serious. His suffering displays the slashing pain of sin upon God's heart. Every time we rebel or reject His advice, it cuts like a lash into the heart of God. Look at 1 Peter 2:11: "Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and as strangers in this world to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul." What sin are you discounting before God? Do not discount any sin. John says in 1 John 1:9, "If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He died for our sin and suffered great pain and humiliation so that we can chase after godliness. As we look at His example with holy eyes we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
From the very beginning God planned for your redemption. Do you remember Adam and Eve in the garden? Remember what happened and what did God say to Satan? "You will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head." God did not have to go back to the drawing board, He did not have to pull back into the recesses of heaven and say, "Oh boy, we have got a problem! We will switch to plan B. We have got to try this again."
HIS PLAN FOR OUR SALVATION
From the very beginning God had a plan. Without taking a breath, He knew what needed to happen. Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb was slain before the foundations of this world were laid. Before there was anything, the Lamb of God was slain in God's eyes. In order to create at all, the Lamb had to be slain! And as God prepared the world to see, understand, and receive the sacrifice of the Lamb, He started making prefigures of that sacrifice from the very beginning.
In Genesis 3:21 it says the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife. Garments of skin point to the very first sacrifice of one for another, as the life of the animal was used to cover the nakedness of the sinners. The intricacy of God's plan is woven all through Scripture. Hundreds of prophecies made hundreds, even thousands, of years before they were fulfilled in Jesus Christ point to Calvary as the central event of all history. It is at Calvary and its surrounding events where the entire Old Testament takes on meaning.
A book by John Piper, The Passion of the Christ: Fifty Reasons He Came to Die, documents that Scripture is loaded with references to Calvary and all that was accomplished there. We recommend this book to you as a valuable addition to your library. It will help you understand the vastness of Jesus' accomplishments. Jesus was not a martyr. He was a mighty warrior who conquered sin and corruption not with a sword but with love and compassion.
IS THERE ANY SITUATION IN OUR LIFE BEYOND HIS ABILITY TO HANDLE?
Based on Christ's work at Calvary, what situation in your life is beyond God's ability to handle? What can He do in your life now? Anything He wants and as much as you will let Him! His suffering should ignite the kind of faith in us that follows Him even when we do not understand. That will follow Him into the darkness where we need to rely on Him to lead us. To trust His leadership in our daily lives that we can live a life worthy of being called Christians!
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HE IS RISEN! | I DIE DAILY - The Marvelous Working of Death and Life | THE PASSION - A Poem | HOW TO BUILD CHARACTERS IN YOUR STORY - Success of Your Story Depends Upon Your Chrarcters! | THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST | A DEFENSE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST | THE EPISTLE OF JUDE | WHO GETS BLAMED FOR YOUR SINS? | RELIGION OR JESUS CHRIST? Who is Jesus? Can He help me? Can I trust Him? | POETIC LICENSE AND BIBLE EPISODES - HADASSAH, a Novel | A WINDOW TO YOUR SOUL - THE SOLITARY POET, a book of poems by Stan Schmidt | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
James W. Skeen
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