Summary: With the Good Friday around the corner, Yours truly attempts to take a 360 degree view on the subject of Christ's and the Christian suffering
GOSPEL OF ADVERSITY
With many ears itching (2 Tim 4:3) to hear only the Gospel of Prosperity, now how many takers would be there for the Gospel of Adversity and the plain speaking that accompanies it? In this Good Friday message, Yours truly makes an attempt to take 360 degree view on the subject of Christ’s and the Christian suffering.
Now it is not an understatement to say that at the Fall, Sin damaged the entire personality of man. His body, soul and spirit (hey, human being is a trinity –I Thess 5:23) were deeply “wounded” as a result of his conscious choice to breach his conscience in the Garden of Eden at the behest of the crafty tempter (Genesis 3:1-7). At our physical birth, we the descendents of the Fallen Adam inherit the same “fallen, broken and damaged personality”. Now the Redemption work of atonement required that all the three parts of the fallen man be set right.
The terrible suffering of our Saviour on the Cross on ALL THE THREE FRONTS ensured that the “complete redemption package “is in place on the First Good Friday. His terrible physical anguish before and during the Crucifixion (a horrific death sentence where pain is maximal with death the “pain reliever” arriving oh so slowly) was immeasurable. The flogging and crowning of his head with “laurel wreath of thorns” only compounded it. Yes we were “sick” from head to toe (Isaiah 1:6) hence it required that our Saviour in his atoning work on the cross bleed to death from head to toe.
Now what about his emotional (soul) suffering before and during the Crucifixion? I would caution the readers’ not to be carried away by some “Christian” paintings which depict Christ praying in a dignified posture in the Garden of Gethsemane and being crucified with the loin cloth on? Even as the Cross with all its indescribable pain loomed before the spotless Son of God, so emotionally was he perturbed that he fell prostrate on his face (read the Gospels to know the truth – Mark 14:35) sweating blood. Then what about the insults that accompanied Him, all along this ordeal …the spitting and stripping (Matt 27:27-31)… the historians tell us that in order to instill uttermost fear of rebelling against their authority, the Romans ensured that the perpetrator was insulted publicly in toto, by crucifying him stark naked. So virtually Christ covered the shame brought about by sin (Genesis 3:7) by Himself enduring shame on the cross (Heb 12:2).
Coming to the spiritual suffering, let it be said that when ALL sin came upon His sinless self (2 Cor 5:21), He experienced HELL for us in order we do NOT end up there. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else. Jesus’ only source of comfort in this fiery affliction till then (the Father’s Holy presence) also abandoned Him as the Holy God whose pure eyes cannot see evil (Hab 1:13) could not stay in the presence of despicable sin, hence that heart-rending cry from the cross …”My God, My God (Note: Not My Father, in the way Christ had along addressed His Father) why have you forsaken me” (Matt 27:46) in perfect fulfillment of the prophecy recorded about 1000 years back (Psalm 22:1).
Was there further sacrificial suffering for the Saviour beyond the Cross? Yes!!! I intend to focus on that subject towards the end of this message.
Even as the Saviour suffered, what is the Christian’s responsibility towards suffering (it would be only physical and emotional suffering, for none can take away the constant spiritual joy in our hearts)? Well, we ought to welcome it (Philippians 1:29), like the Apostles’ of the Early Church did, ensuring all along, we are suffering for RIGHT reasons only (I Peter 2:20).
Consider this Scripture…”after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:40-41).
Imprisoned without a just cause for 4 years, doesn’t Apostle Paul writing to the Philippians Church use the words “Rejoice” and “Joy” not less than fifteen times at a time many in his place would have liberally used words such as “Regret” and “Woe”? Honestly, it would not be a case of exaggeration, to say Apostle Paul turned the tables on suffering both virtually and figuratively.
During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul would be “guarded” (Acts 28:16) by Roman Soldiers’ in three shifts of eight hours each. Being the passionate evangelist ever (I Cor 9:19-23), do you think Paul ever let go a single opportunity to talk about Christ to the Roman Soldiers …prophesying to them some times, speaking in tongues now and then and even healing them of their sicknesses’, no wonder he “rejoices” …”For everyone here, including the whole palace guard (Praetorium) knows that I am in chains because of Christ.” –Phillippians 1:13, so much so we now wonder…who was the real captive…the Apostle or his captive audience (read Roman soldiers)? Talk of fish swimming into the net…