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Emotional Suffering and the Cross

Jesus was brought to Golgotha and crucified. Nails were driven into is hands and feet, and then he was hung on a cross. I cannot imagine the pain. Prior to that he was lashed, spit on, struck, pierced with a wreath of thorns on his head, and forced to carry the lumber of his cross. Painful as it was, none of it was a surprise to Jesus. He taught that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected...” (Mk.8:31). Jesus steadfastly walked the path determined for him - the prophets and Moses said that “the Christ must suffer” (Acts.26:23); Peter said that he was crucified in lock step with God’s “definite plan” (Act.2:23).

So, hard as it is to imagine sometimes, we know that Jesus suffered a great deal physically. But, I was reminded this morning of something that I don’t consider often enough: Jesus also suffered a great deal emotionally.

Reading from Mark 15 today reminded me that Jesus was mocked, he was made fun of, laughed at, and ridiculed. Soldiers put a royal purple cloak on him and saluted him, and bowed to him, and then they spit on him and struck him with a reed (vv.17-20). After he was hung up on the cross, passers-by derided him (v.29). The religious leaders reviled him (v.32). Soldiers, religious leaders, the people - they all rejected him. And to top it off, Jesus was forsaken by God the Father (v.34). I cannot fathom the pressure on Jesus’ heart in that moment. What a horrible lot! Isn’t God supposed to be good? What possible good could be salvaged from such emotional trauma?

A few (of many) thoughts:

1) Jesus knows and can relate to the strain of his people’s emotional hurt. He maybe hasn’t experienced our exact pain in our exact circumstance, but he knows the gamut of human emotions. He can relate. He interacts with us as one who understands what it feels like to be mocked, or derided, or rejected, or grieved, etc. “He was... a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is.53:3).

2) Jesus’ emotional pain was suffered on his people’s behalf. The reason Jesus suffered so much was because of sin! He was derided “for our transgressions” and reviled “for our iniquities” (Is.53:5). But, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” and “his soul makes an offering for guilt” (Is.53:10).

3) Because Jesus suffered on his people’s behalf, our pain is only transient. It’s real, but it’s transient. Because Jesus was mocked on the cross, his people will not be mocked in eternity. Because Jesus was derided, his people are “accounted righteous” (Is.53:11), and ultimately we have the hope of a day to come when all emotional trauma will be relieved and replaced with joy in God’s presence forever (Ps.16:11). “God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Rev.21:3-4). All of this is possible because of Jesus’ tears, mourning, crying, pain, and death.

4) Jesus’ pain says that God loves his people. I don’t say that I fully understand why God would choose to express his love in exactly this way, but the fact is that he has. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn.15:3). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro.5:8). Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). “Christ loved us and gave himself for us” (Eph.5:2). “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1Jn.3:16). “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world... to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn.4:9-10).