Why did Jesus have to suffer?

08 Apr

Veronica’s veil, by Claude Mellan (c. 1649).

In last week’s sermon, we asked, “Why did Jesus have to die?”  But I have another question before we get that far:

Why did Jesus have to suffer before he died?  Is God that cruel and callous that he would physically and mentally torture his own Son?  That makes God a little hard to follow, eh?

Or did something else cause Jesus’ suffering?

What Was Required

Let’s start with the basic question: What was Jesus’ purpose on earth?  Most people will recognize Jesus’ mission to be the sacrifice that pays the price for our sin.  See John 3:16, for example.

Sacrifice was a long-standing tradition in ancient times, just ask Cain and Abel (Gen 4:3-5).  In fact, one of the greatest observances in Judaism involves sacrifice: the Passover.  You can read all about it in Exodus 12:1-27.  Sacrifice was also practiced by other cultures surrounding ancient Israel.

The death of another being… the blood being spilled out… all were poignant reminders that sin had very grave consequences and should not be taken lightly.

What Was Not Required

But here’s the thing: even in God’s meticulous instructions to the ancient Israelites, nowhere does it say that the animals should be beaten, or tortured, or tormented.  If God was going to continue to be a God of justice, then a death was required to pay the penalty of our sin.  But the only requirement is death, and a pretty quick and painless one at that.

So… why was Jesus beaten, mocked, flogged, and crucified?  Why all the suffering?  Couldn’t God’s requirement have been satisfied with a quick beheading or something?  As I look at the requirements of sacrifice in the Old Testament, I’d have to say that would have done the trick.

The only thing I can figure is that the suffering process was all man’s additional gift to the process.  All the hatred and cruelty that exist in the human heart were heaped on to what could have been a pretty simple process.  And heap they did.

Read about the cruelty involved in the crucifixion process sometime.  You’ll marvel at just how clever humans can be when it comes to devising ways to maximize the pain and suffering of another.  In fact, don’t take my word for it, you can watch a Medical Examiner describe the effects of Jesus’ experience.

We don’t have to go very far to realize just how cruel and twisted the human heart can become apart from God.

What Was Revealed

What I’ve seen so far disgusts me.  But what I see revealed in Jesus brings me hope beyond what words can express.  I mean, what kind of person watches all this being done to him, knowing that none of it is required from the Father, and react they way he did?

What kind of person, exhausted and dehydrated from a night of Kangaroo courts, torture, and dehydration from blood loss, watches someone drive a spike through their wrists and says, Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)?

I’ll tell you what kind of person does that: the kind of person who loves you so much that He’ll do whatever it takes to pay the price so we can be together with him… forever.

That’s love.  And that love…. it’s for you!




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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Reflection


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