(I’m going to assume in this post that readers acknowledge the truth of Christianity and hence discuss the suffering of Christ.)
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt something for faith. I’m usually apathetic: I don’t like acknowledging feelings nor thinking too much about the burdens of life (life has enough unhappiness). I don’t have much sympathy for complainers nor people who tell me about their struggles. I don’t even deal well with my own pain. But today’s message got me to think about what I have forgotten: to acknowledge ‘suffering’ and think about what God went through.
Oftentimes we feel that no one understands our pain; we feel alone in our suffering. Even if someone has gone through something similar, it’s never ‘entirely the same’. Yet how does the intense suffering of Jesus stack up to ours? How can we understand his pain?
I remember thinking about this many years back: the medieval times were absolutely disgusting. People have died worse deaths than Jesus, right? He wasn’t the first (nor last) to be crucified, there have been many terrible deaths in history (you can just google terms like ‘worst torture methods’ or stuff like that). So, who cares what Jesus’ suffered? It isn’t THE WORST?
But there is something special, something different about Jesus, which makes his life/death and all suffering more intense than our own pains (?? Arguable, since he is God, after all, BUT think more), or even the pains of people who have seemed to ‘suffer’ most (I can’t remember if I wrote a post about this topic before, but I once thought about how all pains are relative because of their many different forms and different capacities of the sufferers; I argue that perhaps we shouldn’t be concerned with who suffers more/less because there is no effective relativity, BUT put that aside).
Jesus suffered in a multitude of ways:
He underwent physical suffering; think about his 40 days of fasting in the desert: hunger, heat, pain, sickness and all the sufferings of being man. Before death, he was mutilated, such that it was disgusting to look at him – the physical destruction was so great that he bore no likeness of the human body. He was beaten, spat on, mutilated, flogged etc. Even after death, his body was cut up. (Think about your own experience: I’m quite squeamish; I don’t like looking at slightly deformed things. Think about how we avert our eyes from the homeless, those who stink. Simple things like missing or yellowed teeth.)
Consider his humble background and reputation (of being a carpenter’s son, his mother had him out of wedlock – think of the scandal! How can the saviour of the world be born of a single mother! And in a manger, with stinking animals! Not to mention that the people were expecting the Messiah to be a political hero to free them all; they expected someone of standing, someone spectacular.) He was a Nazarene (‘can anything good come out from that place?’) He was not particularly handsome, charismatic, nothing would draw you to him (yet I think about the historical records which talked about how Jesus came to power; surely he had something for him? I don’t know.)
He was separated from God before; in a way, from himself.
Even those closest to him, his family and disciples, did not, could not understand him. No one knew what it was like to be God, nor for that matter, what was it like to be God and have to come down as human. How great the fall! Think about our human limitations – our senses, that even animals have better capabilities than us. His own emotional suffering – his creation, lesser beings, hated him.
He wasn’t rich. Could you even say he was poor? Perhaps, in the same way that monks may be poor (owned nothing?)
He was controlled – he had to live by the rules of that culture. He could not completely change everything, because it simply wasn’t heaven. He was at the mercy of people (who determined that he be crucified). Who hurt him, who controlled him, who subjected him to law and court.
Contemplate on those who suffer much more than you