Immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus changes the conversation. He does not announce his victory. He announces his death.
He says, The Son of Man must suffer many things . . .
Peter takes offense, such offense that he pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him.
Jesus turns to Peter and says his viewpoint is Satanic.
Here we have a conflict of interpretations. Is suffering good or bad? Is it possible for the Messiah to suffer, be rejected, and killed?
Peter says it is not. Jesus says that viewpoint is devilish.
Today, in this message, we considered the subject of suffering. It is a delicate subject. But it is necessary. It is necessary because how we interpret suffering makes all the difference in the world.
We looked at three things:
- Where did suffering come from?
- Why must Jesus suffer?
- How does his suffering affect us?
Where did suffering come from?
We cannot see the meaning of all small part of the picture, unless we see the whole. We cannot know the meaning of the chapter we are in unless we know the story of the whole book.
We cannot know the meaning of suffering unless we look at it in the storyline of the Bible. The storyline of the Bible, in simplest terms, is Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation.
- Creation: The way God made things
- Fall: The way sin ruined things
- Redemption: The way God reclaims things
- Consummation: The time God restores all things
Where does suffering fit into this?
Genesis 1:31 says that suffering had no place in the creation. It was very good. That does not mean that kids would not skin their knees while learning to walk. It means that tragic suffering was not there.
Revelation 21:4 says that suffering will have no place in the consummation.
That means suffering must have come with the Fall. By the Fall the Bible means the sin of Adam, in Genesis 3. The sin of Adam sent shock-waves through the entire cosmos. The BIble calls the ruin of Adam’s sin death.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned– (Rom 5:12 ESV)
Before Adam’s sin, before the Fall, there was no suffering. Afterwards, the world was filled with suffering.
But the Fall brings about many causes of suffering.
Suffering is the fruit of Adam’s sin, the sins of others, and our own sins.
1.Adam’s sin brought it all, but I am referring to one particular effect of his sin. I am referring to the corruption of the entire cosmos. Paul says in Romans 8:19-23 that the whole creation is in the pains of birth, that it is subject to vanity. When Adam sinned, he threw the balance of creation into imbalance.
This means that cancer and viruses and earthquakes are the fruit of Adam’s sin. And they are a cause of suffering.
2. The sins of others are the fruit of Adam’s sin. They are also a cause of much suffering. People texting while driving kill others. Dictators set their armies to war. Angry parents abuse their children. Hateful people speak words that harm.
3. Finally, our own sin brings suffering. Our words, our adulteries, our lies, our laziness bring painful consequences to our selves.
This is important. Not all suffering is caused by us. But we tend to be quick to think we have done something that has brought it upon us. We blame ourselves. We think it is our fault. Not that we cannot bring suffering on ourselves or others, but a great deal of suffering is not God’s response to our sins. It is God’s response to Adam’s sin.
It is also important because we tend to blame God. Modern man has made God the defendant against charges of cruel and thoughtless leadership. But the Bible makes clear that God hates sin and suffering. God has acted in Christ to end sin and suffering.
That brings us to the next question; Why MUST Jesus suffer?
Why must Jesus suffer?
I think the Bible views this in three ways. He must suffer for us, with us, for love of us, to end all sin and suffering forever.
He suffers for us, for our sins. Isaiah 53 is clear, that the Messiah will suffer for the sins of his people. He is the substitute.
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. (53:5-6)
He suffers with us too. What the Bible means by that is that Jesus experienced the whole range of human suffering in the days of his flesh.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Heb 2:10 ESV)
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, . . . . For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:14-18)
Jesus must suffer to become a Savior who is sympathetic. He is not merely a Savior from sin, He is a Savior who walks with his children on their path of suffering, and provides the help we need to persevere.
This means God got his hands dirty in saving us. That makes Jesus unique in a world of religions.
Dorothy Sayers put it this way:
Whatever game he is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain, humiliation, defeat, despair, and death
There was no way he could save us, redeem us from the world of sin and death, without being one of us – and in being one of us, suffer as we suffer.
He suffers for love of us.
The Bible makes it clear that his motive was love. For God so loved the world . . . he proves his love for us . . . herein is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and gave his Son as a propitiation for our sins.
His love means he came among us, was not remote. He did not save us from a distance.
C S Lewis speaks of human love as vulnerability, and human selfishness as safety from hurt.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
It seems that for God to love us, he became vulnerable. He opened his chest to us and allowed us to strike him, slander him, accuse him, abuse him, and then murder him.
God is love. The fellowship of Father-Son-Spirit is a circle of pure and infinite love. The God who is love set his love upon us, to rid us and the world of sin and suffering. Because he is love, he could not save from a distance.
If I were God, I would not have bothered. I would either never have created, or would have wiped the slate clean and started all over again – but that is because I am selfish.
He is love, and with nothing to gain from us, he made himself vulnerable to us, so he might rescue us from sin. And more than that, rescue the whole creation from sin and suffering.
Jesus sees suffering differently. He sees the suffering of the world differently. He sees his own suffering differently. Why is he angry with Peter? Why does he call him Satan? Because Peter would stop him from ending all sin and suffering.
This brings us to the last question:
How does his suffering affect us?
It changes everything.
1. We can see our present suffering in light of his suffering for us, and with us, out of love to us.
We can trust his love for us when we suffer. Into the arms of such love we have fallen. Though I do not know his reasons, I know his love, seen at the cross. Nothing can separate us from his love.
2. We can see our present sufferings in light of the end of all suffering and sin.
That is what Paul says: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18 ESV)
Are you reviewing your suffering, licking your wounds, studying your suffering, wondering what God was thinking when he caused your suffering?
Are you living in your suffering, thinking your life is permanently marked and harmed by your suffering?
Paul says — not so. Suffering is not the last word. Jesus glory is the last word. The glory that awaits us will transform our sufferings into glory (2 Cor 4:17). The glory that awaits us will not merely compensate for suffering, so that at some point we fell like a divine hug makes it better. It will work backwards, swallow up the suffering, and change it into glory.
And our suffering is not a subject for brooding, for studying, for doubts. It is not even worth comparing withe future glory.
This is not escape from reality. This is escape to reality.
We cannot understand our suffering until we understand Jesus suffering. Jesus came into the world because he must suffer for us, with us, out of love to us — so that he might put an end to all suffering and bring us to glory with him.