Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Incomparable Sufferings - The Anguish of Jesus Christ

Today while biking in New Jersey, I went into a shop that had a "Christian lending bookshelf" and I picked up a book called Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper. I pick it up and flipped it open to about the middle page. I began reading and was so blessed by what it said. I weeped sorrowfully, yet I rejoiced in the precious love of my Lord. Here is some of what I read. Be blessed!
When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten. 1 Peter 2:23 
 It was the will of the LORD to crush him he has put him to grief. Isaiah 53:10 
The agonies of God's Son were incomparable. No one ever suffered like this man. Through all eternity, we will contemplate the killing of the Son of God and sing, "Worthy is the Lam who was slain" (Revelation 5:12).      ... So come and worship with me at the splendor of Christ's sufferings. 
      No one ever deserved suffering less, yet received so much. The stamp of God on this perfect life is found in two words: "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). The only person in history who did not deserve to suffer, suffered most. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). None of Jesus' pain was a penalty for His sin. He had no sin. 
       Therefore, no one has ever had a greater right to retaliate, but used it less. He had at His disposal infinite power to take revenge at any moment in His agony. "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 16:53) But He did not do it. When every judicial sentiment in the universe cried out "Unjust!" Jesus was silent. "He gave [Pilate] no answer, not even unto a single charge" (Matthew 27"14). Nor did He refute false ridicule: "When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten" (1 Peter 2:23). Nor did He defend Himself in response to Herod's interrogation: "He made no answer" (Luke 23:9). No one has ever borne so much injustice with so little vengeance. 
      This was not because the torment was tolerable. If we had been forced to watch, we probably would have passed out. In the garden, "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44). In the middle of the night, before the high priest, "they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him.(Matthew 26:67). Before the governor the "scourged" him (Matthew 27:26). Eusebius (about A.D. 300) described the Roman scourging of Christians like this: "At one time they were torn by scourges down to the deep-seated veins and arteries, so that the hidden contents of the recesses of their bodies, their entrails and organs, were exposed to sight."
     In agony the soldiers toyed with him. They dressed him in mock robes of royalty. They began to "cover his face and to strike him, saying to him 'Prophesy!' And the guards received him with blows" (Mark 14:65). A crown of thorns was pressed down on his head - made worse by being driven into his skull with blows. "They were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him" (Mark 15:19). In this condition he was unable to carry his own cross (Matthew 27:32)
      The torture and shame continued. He was stripped. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross. (Acts 2:23; Psalm 22:16). The mockery was unrelenting through the terrible morning. "Hail the King of the Jews!" "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:29, 40). Even one of the criminals "railed at him" (Luke 23:39).
     It was a hideous death. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia tells us, "The wounds swelled about the rough nails, and the torn and lacerated tendons and nerves cause excruciating agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensured.... The victim of crucification literally died a thousand deaths.... The suffering was so frightful that 'even among the raging passions of war pity was sometimes excited.'"
     All of this came upon the "friend of sinners," not with brothers at his side, but utterly abandoned. Judas had betrayed him with a kiss (Luke 22:48). Peter had denied him three times (Matthew 26:75). And in the darkest hour of the history of the world, God the Father struck His own Son with our punishment. "We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4). The only person in the world who truly knew God (Matthew 11:27) cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)
      ...The suffering and weakness of Jesus were a work of His sovereign power. "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18). He freely chose to join the Father's design for his own suffering and death.
     And the goal of it all? "Great love has no man than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Yes, but to what end? What does love pursue? Two which are really one purpose. First "Christ... suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). The suffering of Jesus brought us to God who is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore. Second, in the very hour of death the Father and the Son were glorified. "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him: (John 13:31). Our joy in savoring God and his glory in saving us are one. That is the glory of Christ's incomparable sufferings."
 -John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Please, my beloved, come join me in Gethsemane?
Will you bear this heavy burden with me, 
Feel all sin upon your small shoulders 
And watch all powers of hell flee! 
So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin." 1 Peter 4:1 (NLV)
Is the Lamb that was slain not worthy to receive the reward of His sufferings? Are you willing to lay down your life for the One that so freely gave His life for you? Remember always that He is most definitely worthy!
Much love in Christ,
Hannah Brooke Hartman

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