By Dennis C. Abernathy
In 1 Pet. 2:21, we read, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” Here are expressed words that should thrill our entire being. They express God’s love, mercy and grace toward us. They should capture our deepest thoughts, require our most solemn meditations, bring forth our most ardent thanksgivings, and demand the deepest reverence possible from us. Notice:
1. “Christ also suffered for us.” God’s Anointed (Psa. 2:2; Acts 10:38), the Messiah (Jn. 1:41), the Savior of the world (Jn. 4:42), suffered for us; indeed, in Him we see the joy of the earth and the glory of heaven.
2. “Christ also suffered for us.” The sufferings of Christ are unparalleled; they are extraordinary, and when seriously contemplated, truly marvelous.
3. “Christ also suffered for us.” Yes, mere men (I Tim. 2:4)! Sinners, separated from Almighty God (Isa. 59:1-2; Rom. 5:8).
In this article I invite you to look at the sufferings of Christ briefly, as we hope to glean something that will bring us to a greater appreciation of Him, and cause us to stand in awe, of that great deed which was done.
I. Christ left heaven (a world of glory) and came to our earth of sin and sorrow. Just think, for a moment, of the sacrifice involved in this. Leaving the glory which He possessed, the great splendor, the adoration of angels and their worship, all holy and pure. In John 17:5, we read, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was.” All of the glorious splendor of heaven, He left and came to the earth (His footstool; Cf. Isa. 66:1; Acts 7:49), to a world of pollution, and guilt, blighted and cursed because of sin. Oh what humiliation! Just think of some high dignitary, leaving the dignity and splendor of his high office to live in the hovels of poverty.
Christ thus suffered to open a way for us to heaven, that men (you and I) might ascend to the realms of eternal glory. It is beautifully portrayed in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
II. Jesus assumed our nature; He became flesh. How deep and past our finding out is this, other than the facts which are revealed to us. Deity clad in human flesh; God tabernacling in humanity “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).
Had the highest of angels assumed the form of the lowest creatures, though there would be abasement, yet it would be the transition of a creature (a created being) into the form of another creature. But with Jesus, we see the Infinite, Deity, the Creator assuming the form of the finite, the created. What abasement! (Read Philippians 2:1-1I.) Do you not see, dear reader, the reason behind this? This He suffered that we might be partakers of the divine nature, and attain the adoption of sons (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
III. Christ’s life during His sojourn in the world, was one of adversity and humiliation. We see Jesus (Heb. 2:9), the Son of God, invested with the reins of the universe (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17); yet, He became “poor.” He was the child of a poor virgin, the son of a poor hard working family (a carpenter). Jesus was poor throughout life, the animal creation (a stable), and He was buried in a tomb not His own. If Jesus crossed the lakes, it was in another’s boat; when He entered Jerusalem as a king, He rode on another’s colt. The last meal He had was in a room borrowed by His disciples from a friend.
Do we not see the adversity, humiliation, the deep poverty of our Lord? “Why, oh Why?” we cry aloud. Surely it was designed to open the treasury or storehouse of the eternal riches of God’s love and grace (Jno. 3:16; Tit. 2:11).
IV. Jesus submitted to shame, scorn, and insults. His reputation maligned, His purest of motives and His acts (“went about doing good” Acts 10:38) were misrepresented. He was insulted in every way imaginable, threatened, and finally betrayed by one of His own. He was arrested, suffered through a mockery (sham) of a trial, then being classed with thieves and robbers, He was scourged and beaten, spat upon, and finally had to drag His heavy cross up Golgotha, the place of the skull.
How low man had sunk in degradation and ruin because of sin. To ridicule, malign, and, with wicked hands, kill the pure, holy, and innocent Son of God shows us the utter depths of depravity that sin will plunge it’s victims into (read Romans 1).
But we also see how the spiritual Light could shine through the darkness of sin, shame and sorrow, with the power to bring sinners, of such low estate, to glory. Man was without hope He had to be raised, elevated, reconciled (brought back into favor with God); therefore, the Christ suffered all of this that we might be priests and kings unto God and the Lamb (Rev. 1:6; 20:6).
V. Christ’s agony and suffering in the garden. Here we see the import of the Lord’s awful mental anguish and loneliness of spirit. Into the garden He went, alone and in bitter anguish, while His disciples slept. Here was the utter struggle of the soul. It was in Gethsemane, and not on Calvary, that the crisis was reached, the battle fought, and the victory won. He emerged from Gethsemane fully prepared for the Cross.
Here retired in the garden of Gethsemane, where He became sorrowful, full of sorrow, sore amazed, desolate, and His soul was “exceeding sorrowful, even into death” (Matt. 26:38). For the Son of God, it is dark and bleak. It is indeed “midnight and on Olive’s brow, the star is dimmed that lately shown: Tis midnight and in the garden now, The suffering Savior prays alone.” He falls prostrate to the ground, His agony causes Him to sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. He prayed intensely, from the very depths His soul, and His Father answered His prayer, as the angles came, and He received strength for His approaching ordeal (Lk. 22:43).
What suffering! What a burden and weight – the sins of the whole world – to bear up under! All of this, that the spirit of guilty sinners might not suffer the anguish and despair of eternal Hell! Yes, the Lord endured spiritual and mental horror to procure our salvation.
VI. Jesus suffered the ignominious and painful death upon the cross. This was the worst form of death. It was offensive (Gal. 5:11); cursed was one who hung on a tree (Gal. 3:13). In 1 Corinthians 1:22-25, we see that to the Jews the cross was a “stumbling-block.” It is true today as it was then; for the most part, the Jews eyes are still blinded by the veil of Mosaic authority (2 Cor. 3:12-16). Then to the Greeks the cross was “foolishness.” To the speculative and philosophical, it is still so today. But to some the cross is “the power of God” and the “wisdom of God.” These see the authority, wisdom, and love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ; hence, it is becomes “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
Here on the cross, hanging as a criminal, suffering, bleeding, forsaken because of our sin, and dying – and He was guilty of nothing – but dying because all others were guilty (1 Pet. 2:22). Here we see the Son of God dying “outside the gate” – “without the camp” (Heb. 13:11-13). Drinking the bitter cup of suffering that He had come into the world to partake, finally crying “it is finished” – in this, obtaining eternal redemption for lost mankind.
Can we appreciate, thank, and love Him enough? Are you aware, just a little bit, of what He did? He did not suffer for Himself, nor for angels, or devils, nor that wicked men could be saved in their sins – but from their sins. We have a way of approach to God’s mercy and eternal life through Him (Jn. 14:6).
My friend, are you willing to “go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13)? Will you give praise, honor, and glory to His exalted and matchless name (Acts 4:12; Phil. 12:9-10)?
Guardian of Truth XXV: 2, pp. 17, 28
January 8, 1981