By now, no doubt, you have heard of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” directed by Mel Gibson. The subject of the movie is, more or less, the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus. I saw the movie this past week and it accurately, vividly, and gruesomely portrays what the physical experiences of Christ were like when He was delivered up by the Jews to the Romans for crucifixion. I have heard in the media, and even from some professing Christians, some negative reactions to the consideration of the sufferings of Jesus. In this regard, one is prompted to ask the question, why should we, as Christians, consider the sufferings of the Christ?
First, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because Jesus was God in the flesh. Without the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the sufferings of Christ would be loveless. When we consider that Jesus was God Himself and took on the form of man to redeem sinful man from the clutches of Satan, we recognize the true love of God. Through sin, man became God’s enemy, but through Christ, man can be God’s friend once again. Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16). Paul wrote, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It was on account of God’s love for His creation that Jesus died on the cross. The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider God’s love for us.
Second, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because Jesus was the Son of God. Without the doctrine of the sonship of Jesus, the sufferings of the Christ would be unnecessary. When we consider that Jesus was the Son of God, we think that He came from the Father Himself. And when we think that the Father sent Jesus into this world, we must understand that the sufferings of Christ were necessary to accomplish what God, the Father, wanted to accomplish for the salvation of man. We read in John 8:28, 29, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” Jesus loved His Father and so He obeyed and suffered. The sufferings cause us to consider Jesus, the obedient Son of God.
Third, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because Jesus lived a sinless life and did not deserve what He went through. Without the doctrine of the purity of Christ, the sufferings of Christ would be worthless. When we consider the sinlessness of Christ, we recognize that the sufferings of Christ had true value. Counterfactually, if Jesus had sinned, then He may have merited what He received. However, since He was indeed sinless, we know that those sufferings are worth far more than the most precious of substances on this earth. They were made valuable by His sinless life. Peter writes, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). The sinless life of Jesus makes His blood precious. The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider His innocence and worth.
Fourth, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because it was our sins for which Jesus suffered. Without the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, the sufferings of Christ would be purposeless. When we consider that Jesus died for our sins, we recognize that His death was on our behalf. We are the ones who merited, on account of our sins, that suffering and death. But Jesus took our place and atoned for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” We read further in Romans 5:10, 11 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider our worthlessness, guilt, and need for redemption.
Fifth, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because that will lead us to His resurrection. Without the resurrection of the Christ, the sufferings of the Christ would be powerless. When we consider that Jesus, after having suffered and died, was resurrected from the tomb, we recognize that this is where God’s power truly lies. This is God’s power of salvation for man today, the message of the cross, the gospel (Romans 1:16). Paul writes in Philippians 3:10, 11 “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” We also read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” The sufferings of the Christ cause us to consider the power of His gospel.
Finally, we should consider the sufferings of the Christ because that will motivate us to live more faithfully to God and Christ. Without the doctrine of the perseverance of the Christ through His sufferings, then we would have no foothold upon which to place our faith. When we consider the fact that Jesus endured the cross, it motivates us to endure the pressures under which we come in this life as well. It motivates us to live a better life. It motivates us to study God’s word more. It motivates us to worship God, as God wants us to worship Him. It motivates us to help the poor. Jesus endured this life and the death that is associated with this life. Through Him, we can endure too! The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts us to look “�unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” The sufferings of Christ cause us to consider our own faithfulness to Him.
As Christians, we don’t consider the sufferings of Christ merely to gape at a tragic and gruesome spectacle. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” For the Christian, the sufferings of Christ mean so much more than merely the physical travesties that He endured. We consider the sufferings of Christ today in light of the doctrines that were taught by the Christ. Jesus himself said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). His flesh is the bread of life. That bread is His teaching. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45). Ultimately, it is the belief of Christ’s doctrine in association with His sufferings that will bring one to salvation and move those who are saved toward greater service in the kingdom of Christ today.