In a culture of pleasure and excess, the image of a Suffering Savior is ironic. We take loans to avoid suffering and loss. We invest our lives in comfort and pleasure. We work hard to have worldly success in order to acquire the necessary funds to purchase the things that satisfy our cravings. Success is our measure. Wealth is our reward. Comfort our friend. The pursuit of happiness our right. Nice things surround us and are important to us.
Into all of this steps the One who was among us as an apparent Failure and even, some say, a Fraud. His own family publicly and privately criticized Him and questioned His sanity. His followers deserted Him when He needed them the most. He knew little pleasure while He lived and endured much pain in His death. The church authorities betrayed Him to their enemies, having Him literally nailed to a tree, taking full responsibility. ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children’. Those poor kids. In His death, He was mocked, stripped naked and humiliated by all who saw Him, whether they knew Him or not. He was lifted up for all to see and, strangely enough, from this place of suffering, humiliation and total defeat, Jesus began to draw all men to Himself.
We don’t spend a lot of time thinking on the agony and abasement He endured anymore. It’s not politically correct. In many instances even the church He died to redeem has turned their back on this salient truth. It’s simply too much. It doesn’t fit our paradigm. Suffering is a bad word. Humiliation is not in our picture of faith. Some have even gone so far as to develop their own doctrines on the matter that would seem even to condemn Christ Himself for what He endured. That somehow our enduring suffering and humiliation would indicate that our faith is limited and weak. We do not like the cross.
Jesus did talk about it more than I like to admit. It’s uncomfortable and makes one uneasy. He was open about it with His men. He did His best to prepare them but who can prepare for such? How does one get their mind around such a possibility? It was unthinkable; yet, it was the plan.
‘Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hands.’ Isaiah 53.10 TNIV
John 12:23-26 Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
John 12:32 “As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.”
Remember, we can celebrate today because of His suffering in history.
‘By His stripes we are healed.’