BIBLE STUDY LESSON # 19...February, 14 , 2010
“Jesus, A Life of Suffering (Part 2)
The True Meaning of Love"
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ---John 3:16 (emphasis mine)
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. --- Isaiah 53:3
In a prior lesson, we looked at how Jesus suffered mentally as He ministered here on earth and the anguish He endured while showing His love for each of us. As horrible as this suffering seemed, He was destined to suffer even more as He strove to prove the Father’s love for us. I feel it is only fitting that we look at just how much Jesus loves us on this day set aside to celebrate love. I want to look at what true love really is and what we can do as an expression of that love in our lives. Unfortunately, it seems that most churches would rather overlook Jesus’ pain and suffering simply because it goes against their prosperity teachings; they can’t or won’t accept that God’s love for us is exemplified through Christ’s suffering instead of His many good works. While Christ did perform many miracles and good works as He preached the coming kingdom of God, His love ultimately shines forth in the horrors of His suffering and ultimate death.
As we look back on Jesus’ final days on earth, I hope His suffering and anguish will impact our hearts with an even greater desire to show others His love. These last hours of Jesus’ life were foretold by the prophet Isaiah as he described the suffering servant. Through His love for his people God revealed His ultimate champion – the one who would conquer death by dying himself – to Isaiah and those to whom He had sent Isaiah. Likewise, Jesus’ suffering and death was relayed down through the generations by His disciples and live in posterity within our Holy Bible.
While it is obvious to us that Jesus died a horrific death, we really have not been confronted with the cruel and vile treatment He endured. Although Mel Gibson’s wonderful epic, The Passion of the Christ, showed much of the torment and anguish Jesus suffered, it still did not show the full impact of those horrible hours that began in the garden at Gethsemane and culminated on the cross at Golgotha. Hopefully, we will be able to better understand the fullness of God’s love for us as we reflect on the pain and anguish Jesus endured for us.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. --- Isaiah 53:4-5
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. --- Isaiah 53:7-9
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. --- Isaiah 53:10
“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” --- Isaiah 53:11-12
First, we must understand why Jesus would willingly give His life for us as unworthy as we may be. Isaiah tells us that it was God’s will that sustained the suffering servant and provided him the incentive to carry his mission to fulfillment. Knowing that we could not do it ourselves, God supplied us with His servant to justify us and be the guilt offering for our sins. And, through this suffering servant we would be freed from our sins and our infirmities healed. Throughout his ministry Isaiah had preached of God’s promise of redemption for Israel and all people; now he was foretelling all who would listen how they would be redeemed.
“See my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness – so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” --- Isaiah 52:13-15
Within these two verses Isaiah foretells the crucifixion of Jesus and gives us a glimpse of the horrific treatment of Christ. He tells us that the servant will be so badly beaten and tortured that he will not be recognizable as a man. But, he also tells us that because the servant acted wisely by obeying God’s will kings will be humbled and people who had never heard of Jesus would see and understand just who He is.
We now see that Jesus was destined from the very beginning of time itself to suffer and die for us. And, we know that it was out of love for us that the Father so ordained His Son to face the cruelties of the world. Fortunately, not only did God provide the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus, He also provided the penultimate champion in the risen Savior. But, just how much did Jesus really suffer. Let’s take a look and see.
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. --- Luke 22:39-44
Imagine that you know this would be your last day alive and that you knew you would be dying a gruesome death. The grief would be unbearable. You would be praying with all your might asking God to save you from that moment.
Understandably, Jesus, being in the flesh, felt that way. On that fateful day Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives (more specifically the garden of Gethsemane) to pray, as He always did when in Jerusalem. While feeling sorrowful for himself, He still was watching out for his disciples when He told them to pray that they would not become tempted. Then, as grief finally overwhelmed Him, He started to pray to God asking if there was another way to see his ministry come to fruition. Yet, He asked that God’s will be done and not his own. Sensing how distraught Jesus had become, God sent an angel to comfort Him. Still, He was so distraught that as He prayed He began to sweat drops of blood. Just imagine how painfully intense His prayers were and the toll that His body had taken. Of course, He had no time to dwell on the subject as the temple guards arrived to arrest him.
The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him. --- Luke 22:63-65
After Jesus was arrested, they brought Him bound to the house of the high priest (seems like a bit of overkill by binding someone with no intent to flee). While waiting on the priests to gather, those brave men blindfolded Him and mocked Him as they beat Him and demanded He tell them who had hit Him. Already physically suffering from the intensity of His prayers, the beating added to the abuse His body was taking. Additionally, He was forced to stand for hours as the high priests questioned him and He was shuffled from place to place until His fate was ultimately decided.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. --- John 19:1-3
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. --- Mark 15:16-20
Just imagine, in a three to six hour time span, Jesus has been arrested, beaten, shuffled from place to place, undergone an illegal trial by the Sanhedrin, been delivered to Pilate for final judgment, sent to Herod, sent back to Pilate, brought before the Jewish people, and, finally, been sentenced to death. An average man would have already succumbed to this torturous treatment. Unfortunately, more horrible pain and suffering awaited Jesus. After being sentenced to die, He was led into the center of the Praetorium. Once there he was flogged, mocked, and beaten again.
As a rule, the standard sentence for floggings were thirty-nine lashes (it was believed that forty lashes would kill the one being punished). To understand the severity of this encounter with the Roman soldiers, we must realize that they were trained in the harshest means of torture and the instruments used. The most common whip used for floggings was the cat-o-nine-tails – a whip made of six to nine braided strands of leather, each with pieces of bone or metal entwined at the end of each strand. Typically, the one being punished was either chained to a post or spread across a large rock to ensure they were completely helpless. Usually, two men, one on each side, administered the whipping. As the strands found their target, the bone and bits of metal would tear into the victims flesh, digging into the skin, muscles, tendons and even vital organs. Obviously, each lash would be strategically placed ensuring the maximum shredding effect. Therefore, we can accurately envision Jesus’ back resembling a pack of ground meat after receiving thirty-nine lashes.
Adding insult to injury, the soldiers next took a purple robe and placed it on Jesus – not out of compassion, but to mock Him. Then, they formed a crown of thorns and placed it on His head. Unlike the thorns we see on roses, these thorns were huge, possibly as large as one inch long. Next, they paraded around Jesus striking Him on the head with a staff thus pushing the thorns deep into his scalp and causing blood to flow down his face. After that, they all fell at his feet paying false homage to Him.
While seemingly harmless, their last act before taking Jesus to be crucified may have been the cruelest. They removed the robe and put His old clothes back on Him. In all likelihood, you are questioning how this act could be so cruel. Think, have you ever received a bad cut and had the bandage stick to it? Painful to remove, wasn’t it? Now, remember how bloodied and mangled Jesus’ back was. Assuredly, the robe had to have stuck to His back while they mocked Him. Knowingly, the soldiers would have yanked the robe off once again ripping open the wounds on Jesus back. Then, and only then, they led him out to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle. --- John 19:17-18
Bloodied and weak, Jesus was forced to carry His cross. Unlike the images portrayed in most movies and passion plays, He only carried the crossbeam – which in His condition was an adventure in itself. As He staggered along under the weight, falling occasionally, the beam would cut into His shoulders and already mangled back. As he fell the weight of the beam would punish His entire body. Fortunately, the soldiers made Simon of Cyrene carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha, giving Him a little time to recover some much needed strength.
Upon reaching the place of His crucifixion, they strapped Him to the cross, drove nails into His hands and feet, and raised the cross up to its correct position. As they dropped the cross into to hole designed for it, the impact jarred His body and rubbed his mangled back along the splintery cross causing pain to ravage Him.
Understandably, many people will look at the suffering that Jesus has endured and think that the cross would be somewhat anticlimactic. However, when we look at the effects of crucifixion we see an even crueler suffering form of torture. Thus, we must look at the effect gravity plays in the crucifixion.
Certainly, we all know that gravity would have a downward pull. So, envision yourself placed on a cross with your arms extended outward to your side and your feet nailed to it with your knees slightly bent for support. Ten minutes in this position would be tough; but, Jesus endured for three hours in His condition (commonly, people might last for days). Now, think about the stress and strain placed upon your hands, which are nailed to the cross, your shoulders and your upper body. As your body sags under gravity’s pull, the nails tear into the muscles and tendons in your hands. Likewise, the strain placed upon your shoulders causes the muscles to spasm. Trying to ease the pressure and pain in your upper body, you push yourself up by using your feet. As you push upwards your back is scraped against the splintery beams of the cross cutting into your back and causing splinters to become embedded. Then, pushing up with your feet causes the nails to tear into the muscles and tendons forcing you to stop pushing so you can ease the pain. Unfortunately this is a never ending cycle.
In addition to the stress and strain placed on the outer body, gravity has an even harsher effect on one’s insides. As gravity pulls your body downward, it makes breathing harder and harder. Air can enter your lungs but it cannot escape. Therefore, you are now forced to push yourself up so you can exhale, thus adding to the pains and pressure caused by the earlier mentioned cycle. However, without attempting to push up to breathe you slowly smother yourself. Ultimately, enough stress and strain is placed on your heart that you suffer cardiac arrest. Finally, your strength fades.
As all can see, this was usually a slow, torturous death. Yet, Christ did not die from the continued torture and the crucifixion. Although He did suffer greatly prior to and during the crucifixion, there was another more painful experience that led to His death. So, you may ask, “What did Jesus die from?” Well, let’s look and see.
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. --- John 19:31-34
Here in John’s account of Jesus’ final hour we are given a glimpse as to how Christ died. Obviously, the quickness of His death caught the soldiers by surprise. Knowing the extent of His suffering, they were amazed to find Him already dead. As a precaution, they pieced His side with a spear, producing a flow of blood and water. By looking at the breakdown of the fluid flowing from Jesus’ side, most medical personnel will diagnose the cause of death as a heart condition. If we take this information farther, many doctors would say that Jesus, heart had burst. Therefore, we can rightfully maintain that Jesus died of a broken heart.
Knowing how Jesus suffered and what actually led to His death, we can now get to the heart of this lesson. By showing you the pain and torment that Jesus endured, I hope that you can answer the call to service that God has so ordained for you.
If Jesus, through His love for us, was so willing to endure all the pain and suffering He experienced, why can’t we serve Him when we actually are suffering so little?
As Jesus hung upon the cross, He looked to the past and into the future with an equal amount of love for all. Can you imagine how much we add to His breaking heart when we refuse to love others?
If you have yet to know Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, doesn’t knowing that He did this for you make you want to embrace Him and His love now?
Finally, I hope we all realize that the preaching of prosperity does not fit into the message presented by Christ, the Suffering Servant. Throughout Christ’s ministry, He endured suffering daily as He established the Kingdom of God on earth entrusting it to His followers, most of whom never lived a life of prosperity, although they were prosperous in furthering the Gospel.
Whatever your cross, whatever your pain,
There will always be sunshine after the rain.
Perhaps you may stumble, perhaps even fall,
But God's always there to help through it all.
Remember, we are told by Christ to take up our cross and follow Him, even unto death.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ---John 3:16 (emphasis mine)
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