Photo credit: Suzy Van Dyke, taken @ Bouquet Canyon Church: https://www.bouquetcanyonchurch.com/
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17).
The glorious plan of redemption was necessary from beginning because sin leads to suffering and death. The suffering and death of Christ had to come before it’s freedom and victory. God loved the world so much that He would not allow Satan and the fall of mankind to steal His image-bearing Creation away. The Father had a magnificent plan for the redemption of humanity from the moment of the fall. It was Jesus who would carry it out. Even though He would have to suffer, the Savior would not be deterred.
Jesus marched onward to accomplish God’s perfect will on the cross. Suffering was necessary was a result of sin. In the same way, suffering would be needed to end death and defeat of sin. The cross is a symbol of victory for the Christian. The suffering of Christ won victory over sin, death, and Satan. The first step toward paying the penalty of our sins and taking the cup of God’s wrath was to be sentenced as a criminal being completely innocent. The highest point of suffering for Jesus was when He was handed over to be crucified.
Charles H. Spurgeon appropriately calls Psalm 22 the Psalm of the Cross for in it we get a picture of the suffering Jesus experienced as being forsaken by God the Father. The Psalm prophetically records the last dying words of Jesus, in verses 1-2 He says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” When we turn to the New Testament we hear the Jesus cry out the same words, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus at this point on the cross would be and did in fact feel abandoned by God.
Even in the mists of being abandoned by God and tempted with abuse and mockery, Jesus does not sin nor try to correct their injustice. In Psalm 22:7-8 we can almost hear Jesus on the cross say, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’ The fulfillment was seen in Matthew 27:41-44 which describes the turn of events, “In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!”
However, the cross was not in vain. The righteous suffering of Jesus brought salvation to the world. Jesus came into the world as had been foretold by the prophets to bring salvation to His people. This was His message during His earthly ministry but few would embrace it. His own people and even His bother rejected Him at one point, and crucified Him for the very reason of His suffering. They would not receive a suffering Messiah. But the Messiah had to suffer to make atonement for sins. This is the essence of the gospel.
The implications of the gospel are bearing on every individual. Our response to the suffering of Jesus should be our willingness to take up our cross daily and follow Him. We will never have to suffer the way that Jesus did. We are assured to never be forsaken as Christ was. We will not have to bear the weight of God’s wrath upon our back. However, we are to set our gaze on the cross and suffer whatever He wills. Meanwhile, we can trust that He will not suffer our harm but will see us to the celestial city (Romans 8) for the very reason that Christ suffered in our place. As tragic and gloomy as the suffering of Jesus is, the gift of eternal life that Christ-followers receive from it far outweigh its agony. So let’s live a life of praise to the Lord, for He is risen!