A Share in the Sufferings of Christ – Part 2

Isaiah 53 gave us insights into the life of the “Man of Sorrows”, and we considered some of the ways in which a share in His sufferings might be manifested in our own lives. There are also other Scriptures that speak of the sufferings Jesus endured.

 

In John 13:18-30, Jesus told His disciples that one of them was going to betray Him. In verse 18 He said: “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me’” (See also Psalm 41:9).

 

Jesus was referring to the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, who took thirty pieces of silver to guide a group of Roman soldiers and representatives from the chief priests and Pharisees to Gethsemane where He often met with His disciples, in order to arrest Him. The arrest is recounted later in John 18:1-

  1. This betrayal set in motion the events that would lead to His crucifixion.

 

When we as believers suffer a betrayal of trust, we experience a share in some measure in this aspect of the sufferings of Christ. The betrayal that Jesus suffered would cost Him His life. Even when we suffer a betrayal that costs us only money or reputation, then in some small way we have shared in this aspect of Jesus’ sufferings. Therefore, the suffering of a betrayal and the consequences of that betrayal is yet another way in which a believer

might experience a share in Christ’s sufferings.

 

Mark 14:32-36 recounts Jesus’ agony at Gethsemane just before His arrest. In this passage Jesus said to Peter, James and John: “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:34).

 

Overwhelming sorrow, even sorrow to the point of death, is another aspect of the sufferings of Christ that a believer may also experience at

 

times. This is sorrow so intense that it brings one to the point that he would rather his life be ended than to continue to bear the weight of his suffering.

 

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, the Apostle Paul revealed that while he was in the province of Asia, he was under pressure that far beyond his ability to endure, and so much so that he despaired even of life itself and having to live on to face such troubles. Through this experience Paul was shown a principle that he in turn would pass on to all of God’s people: We are not to rely on our own strength to face the troubles of this life, but instead we are to rely upon God, who is able even to raise the dead.

 

All believers should be aware that there may be times in our lives when we too will experience overwhelming sorrow, sorrow so profound that we would rather not live any longer than to have to bear the weight of our suffering. In these times we experience some share in the overwhelming sorrow that Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. Paul also shared in this aspect of Christ’s suffering in his experience in the province of Asia.

 

When considering the sufferings of Christ as recounted in the Scriptures, we must not overlook the physical suffering and pain that Jesus endured. After Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, He was first flogged by the Roman guards. These floggings were so severe that some died just from this beating alone. After that, a crown of thorns was made and pushed down onto His head so that He bled from it also. During all of this He also endured mocking and jeers from the Roman soldiers.

 

Jesus was then forced to carry His own cross to Calvary where He was to be crucified. Because of the beating He had endured and because of the weight of His cross, He was not able to carry it the whole way. Someone else, Simon of Cyrene, was pressed into service to carry His cross the rest of the way. When Jesus finally arrived at Calvary, He was nailed to the cross instead of being tied to it as others were.

 

The means of death from hanging on a cross was a slow death from asphyxiation, where the lungs filled with water over a period of hours. When Jesus had been hanging there on the cross for some time, a Roman soldier thrust a spear into His side, and both blood and water ran out. Crucifixion was both a physically painful and a humiliating, degrading way to die.

 

As believers, suffering affliction or pain in our physical bodies is yet one more way in which we may share in Christ’s sufferings. The Apostle Peter wrote: “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

 

As Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane, we see another way in which He suffered. In Mark 14:48-50 we read that Jesus was confronted by a crowd of Roman soldiers and representatives sent by the Pharisees and chief priests who had come to apprehend Him. At this time, we see from the Scripture that His disciples “all left Him and fled.” (Mark 14:50).

 

In this passage we see that Jesus suffered abandonment by those who were closest to Him, those who should have been the ones who stood by Him in His time of distress. In the Gospel of John, just before Jesus was arrested, He told his disciples that they would soon desert Him saying: “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:32). Those closest to Him, those whom He had appointed Apostles, those who had been with Him since the early part of His ministry, those whom He now called friends (John 15:15), forsook Him and left Him to whatever fate was to come next for Him.

 

Jesus’ experience of abandonment was much deeper than any we will experience. From the cross He cried out in a loud voice: “…My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34, Psalm 22:1). It is impossible for us to contemplate the depth of abandonment that Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross bearing the punishment due for our sins.

 

For those of us who believe on His name, we have the promise of God: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6). Even with this promise, in the depths of our sorrow and feelings of desperation when we experience abandonment by those closest to us, those we hoped would be there for us in our time in distress, we too may feel like we have been abandoned even by God. But because of God’s promise we know that He will never leave us or forsake us.

 

In the depths of our abandonment we are not alone, as Jesus Himself knew, because our Father is with us (John 6:32). When we experience abandonment by those closest to us, we experience a share in this aspect of the sufferings of Christ.

 

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