Reflections – The God Who Suffered

Surely he was taking up our weaknesses,
and he was carrying our sufferings.
We thought it was because of God
that he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
but it was because of our rebellion that he was pierced.
He was crushed for the guilt our sins deserved.
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:4-5 (EHV)

How often do you have days where you just feel off? Maybe there’s a lingering pain in your back, or your brain feels foggy, or there’s simply a lingering sensation of “something’s just not right” in the back of your mind. I think we’ve all experienced days like this, some of us more frequently than others. When we experience the pain or inconvenience that comes along with being human, it angers us. We feel sorry for ourselves. We feel that we deserve better.

Do we?

The Problem

“So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned.” – Romans 5:12

We live in a fallen, sinful world. Because of this, things don’t always turn out the way we would like. People hurt one another. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes cause destruction. Every so often, a new pandemic claims the lives of thousands and shakes the world economy. But it hasn’t always been this way. This isn’t how God created it to be.

I think there is a tendency for us, if we are honest with ourselves, to claim innocence when it comes to the fall of creation. After all, Adam was the one who got us into this situation, not me. If only he hadn’t acted out in disobedience, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

Yet Adam was given a specific role by God: as the first man, he was the head of the entire human race. In Adam’s fall, the entirety of mankind with him. Whether or not we personally would have committed the same original sin is a moot point: we are bound to him in the fact that we share our human nature with him. We are told that sin entered the world through Adam, but death spread to all of us because all of us sin.

However, this very same principle of headship – the one that caused all mankind to fall – is the same mechanism by which God would choose to redeem us.

Enter Jesus

“For as in Adam they all die, so also in Christ they all will be made alive.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:22

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the second Adam. Jesus was the one who would reverse the curse that Adam had brought upon the world. In order for Jesus to be the second Adam, he had to be a man. Not just in appearance, but in nature. When Jesus became incarnate, he became one with us in our humanity. But therein lies the paradox: humans die. By taking on human flesh, Jesus would also have to die the death of a man.

Jesus is God, but God can’t die.

But God did die, in Jesus.

This is the mystery of all mysteries. All of the other unfathomable aspects of the Christian religion point back towards this one. The notion that the Eternal Creator of the universe could and would die the death of a sinner is foolishness to the world, but it is the foolishness of God. And the foolishness of God is wiser than man.

However, before Jesus could make his atoning sacrifice on the cross, he had to become one with mankind in our sufferings. And I think this part of Jesus’ life is often overlooked: Jesus didn’t only suffer on the cross – every waking moment of his life was spent suffering with us.

In the incarnation, Jesus took on human nature – our sinful human nature – all while being without sin himself. And living in a sinful fallen world has its consequences. Indeed, the Eternal God experienced bug bites and headaches. He felt the sting caused by the death of friends and family. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept because he knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Jesus was there in the Garden of Eden before the fall. He understood and experienced the perfect design of God’s creation. He was fully acquainted with a world where death didn’t exist. Every day of his life on this earth was tempered by the knowledge of how far this world had fallen.

Christ in the Wilderness.jpg

And he endured this all that he might redeem humanity from the curse of sin. Jesus’ atoning work was accomplished at the cross, but his redemptive work began long before that: not only did Jesus bear our sins in his death, he also bore our sufferings in his life. As the one who took up our weaknesses, Jesus offers true rest for the broken, sick, weary, and dying.

As we humbly and reverently contemplate the mercy and compassion of Christ this Good Friday, reflect also on the sufferings you experience in this life. Thank God that you are counted worthy to share in the cross of Christ, having been crucified and buried with him in your baptism. Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing that Christ has freed you from them – eternally.