Home > Christ's Suffering, Imputation, Judgement, Salvation, Sin > The Suffering of Christ

The Suffering of Christ

“Lord, thou hast there thy ninety and nine;
are they not enough for thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer;
“This of mine has wandered away from me,
and although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find my sheep,

The words above are from a hymn written by Elizabeth C. Clephane (c. 1868). There Were Ninety and Nine graphically describes the extremes the Great Shepherd of the Sheep will go to pursue and save His sheep.

But none of the ransomed ever knew how
deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night
that the Lord passed thro
‘ ere he found his sheep that was lost, . . .

Can we ever understand it . . . the darkness of the hell that Jesus passed through to redeem His people? Sin has separated us from God. That wide chasm between God and man can never be traversed by the likes of us who are constantly getting bogged down in the muck and mire of our sinful natures.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we   might   become   the righteousness of God in Him.” We say those words so easily… ” Jesus died for my sins.” And yet there is no sentence that catches  the horror of His atoning  death  more  than  this one…”He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…”

Jesus did not know sin. He never experienced sin. He had no sin nature. He never had a sinful thought. He was totally pure. He was completely perfect. He was holy. He was righteous. And yet He is not someone who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin (Hebrews 5:15).

Jesus hated sin. This is the one who said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…” Now that’s pretty radical surgery by any standard, but sin was just that heinous to Jesus.   The sin that was laid upon Him who knew no sin as He hung upon the cross was so repulsive to Him that He prayed in the Garden that the Father might remove the “cup” from Him. This is the one who had been with God, the Father, from all eternity. He now faced the reality of being separated from a Holy God by the filthiness of sin not His. In His humanity, he struggled with the perfect will of God, but in His Divinity, He submitted to God’s divine plan in order to perfect even our stubborn human wills.

God not only made Jesus to be sin for us, but he punished Him for that sin. “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 53:5). Who pierced Him? Who crushed Him? Isaiah answers that question “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (53:10). God punished Him for something He never did. It was not possible for Him to sin.

The physical suffering He experienced on the Cross was only a shadow of the greater suffering that was taking place. On the Cross all the wretchedness of our humanity was poured out on Him. Imagine being immersed in the contents of a septic tank. The Sinless One became guilty of our lying, cheating, and stealing…our adultery, hate, and bigotry…our lust, pride, and arrogance…our gossip, slander, and murder, our immorality, idolatry, and impatience. All this and more was His. The sin was real. The guilt was real. God poured out His wrath and judgment against our sin. The full weight of our hell fell on

James Henly Thornwell wrote,

“None but Jehovah’s fellow could have received the stroke of Jehovah’s justice in His bosom and survived the blow. The penalty of the law was no vulgar ill, to be appeased by a few groans and tears, by agony, sweat and blood. It was the wrath of the infinite God, which, when it falls upon a creature, crushes him under the burden of eternal death. It is blackness of darkness through which no ray of light or hope can ever penetrate to the soul of a finite being; to all such it must be the blackness of darkness forever. But Jesus endured it. Jesus satisfied it. Jesus bowed beneath that death which the law demanded, and which sinks angels and men to everlasting ruin, and came victorious from the conflict.”

“He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us” – Can you imagine sacrificing the life of one of your children for a friend? Can you imagine administering the death blows yourself? God loved His Son infinitely more than I love my children; yet He sacrificed Him for my life, even though I was His enemy. He administered the lethal blows Himself.

But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thro’
ere he found his sheep that was lost, . . .

None of us can ever begin to imagine what transpired between the Father and the Son in the darkness of that hour. So the next time we are tempted to doubt God’s love for us, we have an answer that cannot be questioned: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The proof of God’s love for us is in His Word, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. .”

Grant, Almighty God, that as we have not only been redeemed from Babylonian exile, but have also emerged from hell itself; for when we were the children of wrath you have freely adopted us, and when we were aliens, you did in your Infinite goodness open to us the gate of your kingdom, that we might be made your heirs through your Son, – 0 grant that we may walk circumspectly before you, and submit ourselves wholly to you and to your Christ, and not feign to be his members, but really prove ourselves to be his body, and to be so governed by His spirit, that you may at last gather us together into thy celestial kingdom, to which you daily invite us by the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

(a prayer of John Calvin, translated by John Owen, found in Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets. Vol. 1)

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

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