The Suffering of Jesus
About the Guest
Good Friday is the day when we reflect on the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. Bob Lepine, pastor and co-host of FamilyLife Today®, explains the importance of remembering that Jesus not only suffered for us, but that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, dead, and buried. Bob points out that remembering Jesus' death should be an ongoing practice and not something we do once a year.
Bob Lepine explains the importance of remembering that Jesus not only gave His life for us, but that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, dead, and buried.
The Suffering of Jesus
Bob: Good Friday is the day where we reflect on the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. But as we think about the physical agony He endured, in His scourging and on the cross, we need to remember that His greatest suffering was not physical.
This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll pause today to spend time reflecting on what Jesus endured for us. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition on what is maybe the soberest day of the year for us.
Dennis: No doubt about it. I drive by a church that has a black cloth draping across. It’s just a good reminder of what was placed on our Savior on our behalf on that day of crucifixion of Christ—yet, Sunday’s coming.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: Sunday’s coming.
Bob: We’re going to spend some time today considering the death and burial of Jesus. I had the opportunity, not long ago, to preach a series through the Apostle’s Creed. When you were growing up in your church, did you recite the Apostle’s Creed?
Dennis: I don’t remember if we did.
Bob: It was every Sunday for us in our church. I memorized it at an early age—just a good rock-solid statement of what it is we believe.
Dennis: Sure; sure.
Bob: This particular message is a message that’s built around the statement that: “Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” Dennis, I think it’s important for listeners to remember that this was not some ethereal event—this was a real man, dying a real death, on our behalf.
Dennis: It was a point in history even in which we obviously mark our calendars—B.C. / “Before Christ,” and then, A.D. / “In the year of our Lord.” We remember—He was here; He died; he was buried; and on the third day, He rose again.
Bob: In the Creed, we say that it matters that Jesus suffered—not just that He died—but that He suffered. And that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, and that He was crucified, and that He died, and was buried. Those are the four things I want us to look at this morning—the suffering of Jesus, the role that Pontius Pilate plays in all of that, the crucifixion of Jesus, and then the death of Jesus—pretty simple outline; alright? Let’s look first at the reality of the suffering of Jesus.
Most of you know that my day job involves media.
Because I have a media day job, back in 2004, I had an invitation to go see a pre-screening of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. I remember watching it and thinking to myself—as I watched the brutality, and the blood, and the agony, and the whole horror of what Jesus was enduring—I remember thinking: “Okay; Mel [Gibson], enough! This is too much!” As soon as I thought that, the thought came to me: “Well, maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s what it’s designed to say. Maybe, in our sanitized way of thinking about the crucifixion, we forget the suffering that Jesus was made to endure.”
Now if you lived in the first century, you didn’t have to have it spelled out for you. The Gospel writers don’t spell it out—the Gospel writers don’t give us grotesque details of Jesus’ beating, of the crown of thorns, of the 39 lashes.
They don’t give us the grotesque details of His being nailed to the cross because people in that day had seen it / they had witnessed it. Remember—when Jesus was crucified, He was not in isolation—a crowd had gathered to watch the torture. The Gospel writers didn’t need to explain the torturous nature of this—the Roman Empire had crosses all over it for criminals.
Actually, even though the Gospel writers do not give us graphic details of what Jesus was made to endure in His suffering, the Prophet Isaiah gave us more graphic details than even the Gospel writers did when he wrote the prophetic passage in Isaiah 53, where he described the crucifixion.
If you have your Bible--and I hope you do--I want you to turn to Isaiah 53 because I want us to just read through and be freshly moved by the suffering of Jesus. Look in verse 3 of Isaiah 53—it says of the Servant that:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hid their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; and yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is lead to the slaughter, like a sheep that is before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
Drop down to verse 10:
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him, He has put Him to grief. When His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offering, He shall prolong His days, the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul, He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be counted righteous and He shall bear their iniquities.
Now stop right there. Two points I want to draw your attention to from this passage—and there’s so much in it / so much we can look at—but the two points are this: first of all, as you read Isaiah 53, you can’t help but notice there is a recurring pattern which is: “Jesus suffered; you benefited.
“Jesus endured; you have been blessed as a result. He bore our griefs; He carried our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions / crushed for our iniquities. Oppressed and afflicted—the Lord laid on Him our iniquity.” You see—there’s this ongoing statement that says, “He endured it; you benefited from it.” There was a purpose for Jesus’ suffering. He was enduring and bearing the pain and punishment that all people deserve because of our rebellion against God.
The second thing I want you to see in this passage is what it says in verse 10: “It was the Father’s will to crush Him.” This was the Father’s plan, and His Son was the willing obedient Servant, who said, “I will bear this for them,”—for us—for you / for all who are in Christ—for all who confessed their sins, and turned from their sins, and who turned to Christ, and received His grace and mercy, and follow Him.
He suffered so that you don’t have to.
Now maybe it goes without saying, but let me just make it clear here—those who refuse to confess, and repent, and turn from their sins—the suffering that Jesus bore on the cross is ahead for you. You understand that? When you do not turn from your sin and turn to Christ, then what God has said is: “There is a day of punishment coming because of your rebellion.” That punishment is pictured for you in what happened to Jesus.
Now, that doesn’t mean that everybody who rejects God is going to wind up on a cross. But it was on the cross that Jesus cried out in perhaps His greatest moment of suffering/ His greatest moment of agony—when the Father turned His face away, and when the Father removed any sense of blessing from Jesus, and the Father forsook the Son.
That moment of suffering is what is ahead for eternity—to be forsaken of by God is what’s ahead for all who reject. God is a just God—sin must be punished.
The choice every man and woman faces is—whether you will choose to bear the wrath of God and be forsaken by Him yourself for all eternity because of your rebellion or whether you’ll submit your life to the One, who willingly bore God’s wrath for you so that you don’t have to. I think all of us have to ask, “Which future is ahead for me?” It’s a key question because you’re going to stand before God and a verdict is going to be read. Guess what the verdict is—it’s: “Guilty.” For everyone, it’s: “Guilty.” The question at that point is: “Does the verdict stand or does the Advocate come forward on your behalf and say to the Judge, ‘Judge, the penalty for this one has been paid’?”
The reason the suffering of Jesus is central to our good news is—because of what He endured, we don’t have to if we’re in Him. But for that good news to be good news for you, as an individual, you have to surrender your life / surrender your will to Jesus. You have to acknowledge that He is the rightful King and Master of your life. You have to bow your knee and give your life to serving Him.
Now, as I said, His greatest suffering was not the crown of thorns, it was not the scourging of the 39 lashes, it was not nails being run through His hands and His feet. The greatest suffering Jesus experienced was the anguish in His own soul when that perfect union that He had experienced with God the Father from all eternity—He had known it from all eternity—that was broken. God turned His face away. For the first time in all eternity, Jesus experienced what it’s like not to have union with the Father. That’s when His soul was crushed—that’s the suffering / the great suffering.
In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion—Chapter 27 [verse 46], Matthew says that Jesus, in the ninth hour, “…cried out in a loud voice, ‘ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?’ which is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken’”—why have you turned away from—“‘Me?’ / ‘God, why have you done this?’”
Michael Wilkins, writing in the ESV Study Bible notes, “These are some of the most profoundly mysterious words found in the entire Bible.” In some sense, Jesus had to be cut off from the favor of and the fellowship with the Father that had been His eternally because He was bearing the sins of His people and enduring God’s wrath. The point here is that the main suffering Jesus experienced was a suffering in His soul when His fellowship with the Father was broken.
The Creed says that—it adds the detail that He suffered under Pontius Pilate. You may ask, “Why did they throw Pilate into the Creed?” Lots of people have speculated on this question.
Let me give you three answers why I think Pilate’s name is in the Creed.
The first is: So that we can know we’re talking about an historical fact—this can be dated and placed in time. “He suffered under Pontius Pilate,”—this is not a myth or a fable / it’s to identify it in history.
Second, Pilate is the counter point to Mary. Now, think about it—there’s the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Creed. There are two other people mentioned. Who are they?—Mary and Pilate—they are back to back. He was conceived and born to the virgin Mary—the woman, who said to God, when God came and said, “I have an assignment for you,” / the woman who said: “Be it done to me according to Your will. Whatever You ask, I will follow,”—that’s Mary. She was blessed to be the mother of Jesus.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate—the man who, when Jesus was brought before him / the man who examined him—and what was his conclusion?
“I find no guilt in this man.” So he sent Him then to Herod—say, “You see if you examine Him.” Herod sends him back to Pilate. Pilate examines him a second time. He says, “I find no guilt.” The crowd says: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He said, “But there’s no guilt in Him.” They said, “Give us Barabbas.” He said: “Okay. I wash my hands [sound of rubbing hands together] of this whole deal.” Pilate’s guilt: “How did he respond to the plan of God?”—not as Mary, saying, “Lord what would You have me do here?”—he responded by saying, “I better do the expedient thing.” So even after declaring Him innocent, he puts Him to death.
Now it’s interesting to note—this is a creed that was developed in Rome / in the Roman Empire at the time that the Empire was still strong—that says, “The ruler, placed in Judea by the Romans, declared this man innocent before he put him to death.
“This is not just us saying, ‘He’s innocent’; it’s your guy saying He’s innocent.”
I think the juxtaposition between Mary and Pilate is significant, but I think the third reason he is in the Creed is because Roman rule was supposed to be honorable and noble. It’s supposed to be—the Romans thought of their government as the epitome of human civilization: “We have found the way people should be governed.” And the Creed shows the Roman rulers were not gods to be worshiped / they had not found perfect justice.
All systems are corrupt because all people are corrupt. Jesus was sentenced to death by Roman rule, even though He was innocent. Remember this creed was first circulated among Christians, who were being charged with the crime of not bowing to Caesar and being thrown to the lions. This was a reminder: “You’re not the first person to have been unjustly sentenced under Roman rule. If your Savior can suffer and die, so can you.”
So you have—“He suffered” / “He suffered under Pontius Pilate.”
Then the Creed is specific about the means of execution; isn’t it? It’s specific for a very specific reason—Jesus was crucified—He was not stoned to death / he was not hanged. He was nailed to a cross, which was the common method of execution for Roman criminals.
Now the idea of crucifixion was new in Rome—but for years / for centuries, the practice in a lot of civilizations, including the Jewish nation—the practice had been that, if a person was guilty of a capital crime, after the person had been executed, it was customary to take that person’s body and to lash the dead corpse on a tree publicly so that all could see that the justice of God had been carried out against this wrongdoer / this evildoer. The shame and guilt would be drawn to his naked corpse, hung on the tree, following his execution.
In fact, if you look back in Deuteronomy 21 [verse 22]—you don’t have to turn there—but here, God is giving the law to Moses. He says: “If a man commits a crime punishable by death, and he’s put to death, and you hang him in the tree, his body should not remain on the tree overnight. You should bury him the same day (for a hanged man is cursed by God). You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.”
“Don’t leave the body up overnight. There’s a curse that goes with this hanged man. So get him down and bury him so that the curse doesn’t defile the land,”—that’s what the law was saying in Deuteronomy, Chapter 21. When it says that this man is “cursed by God,” the word, “cursed,” means “to be cut off from the presence of God / to be set outside of the camp and to be cut off from the benefits of God.”
So this man is cursed because he’s been cut off from God’s presence because of his guilt. He has been put outside of the camp. He has been cut off from the benefits of God.
The Apostle Paul cites Deuteronomy 21, when he says in Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.” Now, think about this for just a second. When you fail to keep God’s law perfectly, you are set apart from the presence of God / you are outside the camp. The benefits of God don’t come your way when you fail to keep the law. When you fail to keep it, God says: “Well there’s a sentence for that. It’s the death sentence. You’re under the curse.” The curse can’t be reversed—that’s the curse of the law. And everyone born is born under the curse of the law because there is a law—because you can’t keep it—you are outside the camp, away from the blessing of God.
But Paul says, “Jesus redeemed you”—or He bought you—“out from under the curse of the law.” How did he do it? Galatians 3:13 says, “…by becoming the curse for us.” You see—that’s why it says He was crucified, dead, and buried. He was crucified so that He could be that picture of the curse—the public declaration that He was cursed by God, even though He was an innocent man.
Because you and I are law-breakers and deserve to be executed, we deserve to have our bodies hung on a tree so that everybody knows we’re guilty. But Jesus became the curse for us by dying and having His body hung for all to see on the cross in our place. The method of execution was significant. The Apostle’s Creed draws our attention to it. Jesus suffered in body and soul as our substitute / He suffered unjustly under Roman rule, under Pontius Pilate.
He was put to death in a way that put Him on public display as an object of shame and ridicule.
And then the last part of the Creed says that he died and was buried. So why does the Creed say he was crucified, dead, and buried? The Creed writers wanted to make sure everybody understood—He wasn’t crucified and then just lapsed into a coma. R. C. Sproul says this—he says: “The testimony to the actual death of the Savior is important because, given all that we’ve said about the curse of God and the satisfaction of His wrath, if there was any doubt that Jesus really died, there’d be doubt as to whether the Father had actually meted out His wrath on Christ. Death is the sentence pronounced on sinners; death is required for the atonement. If Jesus hadn’t died, we’d have no assurance that the demands of God’s law were met in Christ; and we’d have no foundation for believing we’re at peace with the Father.” The account of Jesus‘ burial, in the Creed then, is more than just a record of historical fact—it proves that He truly died and endured the curse for His people.
The Creed writers want to make sure you get the point: “He was crucified,”—that was the means of execution—“He died; He was buried.” Folks, the suffering and the pain are a part of the story—not just a part of the story—they’re the central part of the story. Jesus was bruised for us, crushed for us, suffered for us—died in our place. That’s why Jesus, at His final meal with His disciples, took common elements—bread and cup—and He said: “As often as you eat a piece of bread, I want you to think about My body being crushed. As often as you drink wine, I want you to think about blood running down My side and My face.” Jesus wanted us to reflect on His suffering regularly so that we would remember what He has done for us. We are pulled back to the center of the gospel message—to the death, and burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Well, reflecting on the death of Christ today—on Good Friday—this is not something that we ought to just take one day a year and think about, but it is central to everything we believe.
Dennis: It is. I think—obviously, you can’t talk about His death without talking about Him defeating death on the third day He arose. Because He defeated death, He can offer eternal life to anyone who cries out to Him as Savior and Lord—who says: “God, forgive me. I’m a sinner. Be merciful to me, and come into my life, and transform me, and make me into the person You’ve made me to be.”
Bob: And if this is, indeed, a dark and sober day; then in the same way, Sunday ought to be the most joyous of days in our year.
Dennis: It is indeed! Think of the great news that occurred at the tomb. The angel declared: “He is not here! He’s alive! He defeated death!” Because of that, we can go to a funeral of a family member and we can have hope. We can think of the day when there will be a funeral for us; and we can have hope that—as one author said, “A grave is merely a doorway cut in sod,”—it is a doorway into eternity and to a face-to-face reunion with the Savior who walked on this planet.
Bob: Our hope and our prayer is that every listener to this program is ready to walk through that doorway and to walk to the other side, not to face punishment, but to be welcomed home as a child of God.
Dennis: If you’re listening to this broadcast and aren’t assured of your salvation, just bow—
—say: “Lord God, be merciful to me a sinner. Come—take up residence in my life.” The word, “Christian,” means “Christ in one.” Because He’s alive, He can invade your life—He can help you become the person God made you to be. Take Him at His word—trust Him and begin to experience eternal life right now. In fact, that’s what he said in John 17 [verse 3]: “This is eternal life, that you know Me and the true God who sent Me.”
Bob: If you do have questions about what it means to be a follower of Jesus—on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, we have a link there that says, “Two Ways to Live.” It lays out there for you the choice that each one of us faces—the choice about: “What will guide, and direct, and mark our lives? What are we living for?” Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “Two Ways to Live.” Ask yourself the question: “How am I living? What am I living for?”
Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church on Easter Sunday.
I hope you can join us back on Monday. Josh McDowell is going to be here. We’re going to talk about the epidemic that is sweeping our country—it’s the epidemic of pornography. What do we do about this? Josh will be here to give us some thoughts. Hope you can tune in as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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