"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" (Isaiah 53:5).
For me he suffered. To bring me peace and to bring me healing, he suffered.
I can get so lost and overwhelmed in my own circumstances that sometimes I am distracted from this essential truth of Lent. Christ suffered for me. This is not just an abstract idea, but a concrete reality. Jesus stepped into our life of pain. He could have stayed in the peace and joy of heaven, but he chose instead to suffer with us. Mark 10:45 says it this way, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Christ stepped into our pain to sacrifice himself for us.
As we approach Good Friday and Easter, it is in our tears and our suffering where we connect with what Christ has done for us. Yes, we see him too in Easter’s resurrection joy, but he is not a distant God known only in his triumph, but a present God who suffered in our place and walks with us through trials.
Why is it significant that Jesus suffered?
He didn’t have to. God could have left us alone in our sinfulness to bear the punishment we deserve, but that is not the path that he chose. Instead he took the path of pain and suffering to restore our relationship because he loved us as creatures he made and cares for. As a father who chooses to suffer so his children wouldn't have to, he chose to walk this difficult path out of pure love.
In the midst of my mess I don’t have to wonder if God understands my pain and struggles. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Amid a culture that sees God as distant and un-involved, our God chose to be Immanuel--the God who is with us--in the midst of suffering. He understands our pain and cares about each tear that falls.
When life is difficult, I can know that God has not abandoned me, but strengthens me even as he calls me to suffer. We all have a job to do in taking up our cross to suffer for the gospel. We were never promised a life without pain, but we are assured of a God who walks with us through every pain that we face. In Acts when some of the apostles are flogged they considered it a blessing that they were counted worthy to suffer. We do not get excited about suffering, but we do not need to let it discourage us. John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We recognize Christ's sacrifice for us and recognize that we are called to sacrifice for others.
Jesus overcame the world through his suffering so we have a promise that a better day is in store for us in the future. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” His sacrifice shows that we can trust in his love. Because Christ suffered and won the victory over death and hell, our future is secure.
I hope as you walk through this Holy week that you are able to find time to reflect on the suffering of Christ and what it means for your life and for your family. Let tears flow as you attend church on Good Friday and remember the pain that Christ chose for you.
Rev. Deb Koster