Have you ever been in a situation where you knew that you would suffer greatly at the end of the week? That is hard. The coming suffering weighs on you. Now, think of Jesus. He suffered each day of the Passion Week, but He knew that His suffering would be intensified on Friday. On Friday, He would experience greater discomfort and pain than ever before, all under the fullness of God’s wrath. He knew this suffering was coming, but He chose to go through it for us His people. As you read about that suffering now, thank Him.
Before we consider further what Jesus went through on Friday, remember who He is. He is the Son of God come in the flesh. As the Son of God, He is the Almighty owner and ruler of all things, He is perfectly holy and righteous, and worthy of all praise.
The Son of God come in the flesh suffered rejection, physical pain, discomfort, and mockery during the trials He faced in the early part of Friday. Soon after midnight, He was tried before the Sanhedrin. When He said that He was the Christ, they cried, “Blasphemy! Guilty of death!” Imagine telling the truth, and everyone saying you lied. The members of the Sanhedrin then spit in His face, slapped Him, and brought Him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate seeking approval to kill Him. Pilate found no fault in Jesus, but when Pilate tried to release Him the Jews shouted, “Crucify Him!” Fearing those Jews, Pilate condemned Jesus to death, showing that it was not only the Jews that were against Jesus, but the whole world. Next, Pilate took a whip, which was likely a leather cord with sharp pieces of bone or lead balls tied to the end, and lashed Jesus’ bare back.
After the trials, Pilate handed Jesus over to the Roman soldiers who inflicted more suffering. They took Jesus into a common hall outside the governor’s room where they stripped Him, clothed Him with a scarlet robe, placed a crown of thorns on His head and a reed in His hand, and mockingly bowed, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They spit on Him and used the reed to strike His head.
The soldiers then led Jesus to Golgotha, a hill just outside Jerusalem, to hang Him on the cross. Jesus watched the soldiers put that cross together, knowing that He was going to hang there. He had nails pounded through His hands and feet, His garments taken, and He was placed on the cross naked for all to see His shame. His scraped up, bloody back burned as it lay against the rough wood. His body weight put immense pressure on His heart and lungs so that it was hard to breathe. People walked past shaking their heads at Him, and Jesus heard them mock, saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” He experienced the agony of the cross for about six hours, and then died. His body was taken down, and He was buried, showing to us many years later that He really went through the violent ripping apart of body and soul.
What made all of this even worse is that He was suffering it all under God’s wrath. God’s wrath is His holy anger against sin. Jesus was under God’s wrath not because He was a sinner, but because He had the sins of believers legally upon Himself. When Jesus was mocked, beaten, and spit upon, this was especially difficult because He was experiencing it under God’s anger. He was “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus suffered under God’s wrath for our sins His whole life long, but this intensified at the cross, especially during the three hours of darkness when He experienced the fullness of God’s anger for sin. God has an eternal anger against each of our sins, and that eternal anger came upon Jesus in its fullest intensity during the three hours of darkness. Thus, He cried out during that time, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Really think of how awful this was for the Son of God come in the flesh. He was formerly in heaven, in the bosom of the Father. He came to this earth and experienced the fullness of His Father’s wrath for sin and felt far from Him.
Why? He went through this suffering to pay for our sins. I John 4:10 says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” A propitiation is a payment made for our sins that covers them. God sent Christ so that He might make complete payment for our sins. And Christ made that payment by suffering and dying under God’s anger for our transgressions. He drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath all the way to the end, and then cried, “It is finished.”
He suffered on the cross to pay for our sins and save us from God’s eternal wrath. Apart from Christ, we are guilty sinners before God and under His wrath now and forever in hell. Christ took upon Himself our iniquities and suffered under God’s wrath for them so that we do not have to. Galatians 3:13 says that He was “made a curse for us!”
Jesus endured the cross to save us from wrath and hell, and gain for us God’s favor and heaven. I Peter 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…” Christ paid for all our sins at the cross, and His perfect righteousness is imputed to our legal accounts. Without Christ, we would be guilty and under God’s wrath. But, on the basis of Christ’s work, we are righteous and under God’s favor. God delights in us, blesses us, makes all things serve to our good, and will take us to glory.
The truth of Jesus’ suffering at the cross is our salvation and comfort. Think of suffering that you have gone through in your life or that you are going through. In the midst of trials, we sometimes feel far from God and wonder if His wrath against sin is on us. But, the truth of Jesus’ suffering at the cross shows that we never suffer under God’s killing wrath for sin. Christ suffered under God’s killing wrath for sin, so we cannot and will not. Rather, on the basis of Christ’s work, we are under God’s favor. God brings us suffering only for our good. He sends suffering so that we learn to depend upon Him more, learn to serve Him more, and learn that this earth is not our home. Thank God for Christ.
Originally published April 2021, Vol 80 No 4