Thoughts and meditations on the suffering of Jesus.
Many people have been scourged and crucified, tortured and killed.
What made Jesus’ suffering so terrible and so unique?
I have often asked this question, and this blog comes from my reflections and insights, and was also greatly inspired by the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”.
Many of the pictures are from “The Passion of the Christ”.
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
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 led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. Isa 53:1-7
Gethsemane: a beautiful garden where Jesus went to pray at night, where he knew the joy and peace of his Father’s presence, where he felt his Father’s love for him, for his disciples, and for all of mankind.
Gethsemane, where Jesus knew the fulfilment of his destiny would begin.
On that ordained and terrible night in Gethsemane, as Jesus prayed alone, he began to feel the weight of mankind’s sin, and the pain of mankind’s sorrow. This was only the beginning, and Jesus already felt he couldn’t do it. The burden was too heavy, and he knew it would get much heavier.
All that lay ahead of him seemed too horrifying and too difficult to face, and Jesus was filled with terror and dread.
If only there was another way.
Jesus wrestled with himself, with the sin that was weighing upon him, and with Satan, who began to cruelly torment him with fear and doubt. Anguish arose within Jesus, like a deep, gaping cruel pit that he was about fall into. The hatred, cruelty, and bitterness of mankind, the torment of suffering people, and the agony of a world separated from God. A harsh, cruel, chaotic reality was closing in, and Jesus cried out to his Father, begging for release.
An angel appeared and gave him strength, and he knew his Father’s answer. With horrendous, agonising fear, his forehead pounded violently, and blood fell to the ground.
In his anguish, Jesus returned to his disciples. His heart ached with loneliness as he saw them sleeping: his friends, who only hours before, had seen his love displayed in so many ways, and had listened to him speak of this very night. Did they still not understand? He loved them so much.
Jesus’ disciples awoke: alarmed and shaken, and deeply concerned as they saw Jesus’ obvious suffering and pain.
Suddenly they heard the noise of heavy footsteps, the clash of armour and the sound of voices. Jesus knew it was time, and as his disciples rose from the ground in dismay, Jesus stood silently, and the temple guards surrounded him.
Betrayed, captured and questioned
Judas, who was among them, approached Jesus and greeted him with a kiss. The pain in Jesus heart was unbearable: a man who had shared his deepest thoughts had turned against him and was now betraying him.
As the guards grabbed and bound him, Jesus watched in despair as his friends ran away. He was alone.
In a furious frenzy, Jesus was pushed, pulled and dragged along the path, the guards kicking and punching him. Jesus arrived at the temple already battered and bruised, and was set before the Sanhedrin: the religious leaders, and the high priest. As they questioned him, Jesus felt deep grief: he had done so much to show them who he was, and still they didn’t believe.
They mocked and scorned him, hit him and spat upon him. The cruel words were like darts, the hits and punches like arrows. Every dart and arrow carried some of mankind’s sin, which came upon him like a dark blanket and pierced into him painfully. Every time someone spat on him, sin it it’s filth struck him. The anger and bitterness in every person’s heart gradually came into Jesus, along with all the accompanying depression and grief.
After a long night of questioning, being jeered at, slapped and spat upon, Jesus, now exhausted, was handed over to the Roman authorities by his own people. Through it all, Jesus, knowing they truly didn’t understand, forgave them.
A rooster crowed and, with a heavy spirit, Jesus knew that Peter, one of his disciples, had denied knowing him.
More questioning by Pontius Pilate: the Roman governor of Judea.
Knowing his innocence, Pilate brought Jesus before the crowd of people that had gathered outside.
The crowd that faced him was in a frenzy, the priests and elders demanding his death. Such rejection and hatred from his own people. Still, Jesus forgave them.
Jesus is beaten and tortured
In an effort to appease the crowd, Jesus was taken and scourged, beaten furiously by Roman soldiers. The soldiers laughed almost deliriously, actually enjoying the task of inflicting such terrible pain upon him. Every lash of the whip carried with it the violence and cruelty of mankind. Flesh was literally ripped from his body, the flesh of the Son of God replaced with the sin and pain of a fallen world. Jesus felt excruciating pain over every inch of his body, as the cruel whip lacerated his skin, nerves, muscles and blood vessels.
The long beating ended at last. Unable to move, the Roman soldiers dragged Jesus across the rough ground to an area where many other soldiers were gathered.
Thrown against a wall, a crown made of thorns was forced onto Jesus’ head. The thorns pierced deeply into his skull, penetrating almost to his brain. His head and face throbbed and pounded unbearably, and his eyes were partially blinded: with pain, and by the blood running from his head. Sweat poured into his smarting wounds, the saltiness adding to his already unbearable suffering. Jesus’ whole body, from head to toe, was covered with deep, weeping cuts and bruises. Many of his muscles and bones were exposed.
A scarlet robe was thrown over Jesus’ shoulders, rubbing into his wounds and severely intensifying the torture in his flesh. The soldiers mocked, tormented, punched and kicked him, the anger and hatred of the world and of Satan coming through them. Every inch of Jesus’ body was in unspeakable agony. He felt faint, dizzy, and traumatised, and was ready to die then, but he knew that all had not yet been accomplished.
Still, he forgave his torturers.
Barely able to stand, Jesus was dragged and pushed relentlessly back to Pilate. Through the fog of pain, he heard Pilate question the crowds of people again. The crowd frantically cried out, demanding his crucifixion. Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah – Jesus, pure love, who had done no harm – only good – had to endure pure hatred from his own people. The people he had come to redeem. He looked through the crowd and saw his mother, and the heart-wrenching agony on her face.
Sentenced to death
Pilate, washing his hands, announced Jesus’ sentence. Jesus knew that Pilate was afraid, that Pilate was torn between the people’s demands and his own conviction, and was condemning an innocent man to death. Jesus knew, and this added to the weight of despair and betrayal.
The cross was put on Jesus. How would he carry it, except with his Father’s strength? The weight was immense: the weight of fallen man.
The long, slow walk to Golgotha began. People filled the narrow streets, and through the blur of agony and exhaustion, Jesus heard their laughter, yelling, weeping and crying. He staggered forward, knowing there was no going back.
He stumbled, the heavy cross tumbling upon him as he fell, pinning him to the stony ground. The thorns pressed further into his head, and the pain in his body intensified as he was beaten savagely by the soldiers.
He struggled to his feet with sheer determination, taking up the cross again. With each step his suffering increased, and the cross grew heavier. The weight of sin was growing unbearably.
Falling again, and again, the hard ground pounding relentlessly against his tormented, ulcerated body, Jesus felt so weary and depleted, so utterly exhausted. Without mercy, the soldiers beat him repeatedly, slashing his already gaping wounds. The cross pressed agonisingly against his ripped flesh. He knew his Father was keeping him from dying right there.
And in his heart, he forgave his persecutors.
Jesus knew that Golgotha was close. He struggled to climb the steep, grassy slope. He had to get there. He knew he had to complete his task.
Jesus is crucified
Jesus felt incredible dread as he reached the hill’s summit. The fear and terror of all humanity entered his soul, overwhelming him with nauseating panic. He was grabbed by the soldiers and stripped of his garments, his flesh, soaked with blood, being violently ripped and torn off with them.
He was thrown on to the cross, and nails were hammered into his hands and feet: with unspeakable agony, bolts of radiating pain shot through his arms and legs. With each nail that pierced his body, Jesus’ soul was pierced with sin.
The cross was raised upwards, and gravity pulled downwards, all the weight of Jesus’ body tugging on his hands. The nails held Jesus on the cross, in excruciating torment. Mankind’s sin kept him there.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”, cried Jesus. (Luke 23:34)
Jesus became sin
Jesus felt the whole of mankind’s sin entering him, and as it took hold within him, he began to feel the full impact of every emotion resulting from sin. Every thought and every feeling of every sinner (of every person – that has ever lived and ever will live), entered into Jesus soul: all the hatred, anger and cruelty, all the jealousy and greed, and all of mankind’s pride, lust and rebellion, entered Jesus’ soul and seared through his veins. He, who had never sinned, knew sin, became sin, but did not sin.
He embodied sin.
Terrible sorrow, disappointment, despair, depression, and a sense of dreadful loss and emptiness came upon him.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corin 5:21
All creation trembles
Darkness fell upon the earth: a heavy, brooding blackness. A deep, penetrating silence….a fearful waiting….a terrible horror….a deathly stillness.
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. Matt. 27:45
The birds stopped singing. Flowers bowed their heads. There was no breeze. There were no stars. Everything felt taut, stretched, about to break.
People began to run away in alarm. Everywhere there was terror. Every living being trembled.
A deep, dark, gaping void separated heaven and earth.
All of mankind’s sin had attached itself to Jesus. His blood had congealed with his already ripped flesh, and his whole body became a mass of blood, sweat, flesh, bone and muscle. He became sin, and there was none of him left. He was unrecognisable as Jesus, unrecognisable as a human being.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Psalm 22:6-7
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:14-18
Then, in the midst of such physical and emotional torment, Jesus felt his Father leave him. He was abandoned, alone, foresaken.
Why? Why? Why?
Did his father no longer love him?
What had he done but taken on the guilt of mankind?
What had he had done, but what his father had asked of him?
Was his father proclaiming him to be guilty?
Was his father punishing him?
He felt all the guilt and shame of sin come upon him, and he felt the anguish and torment of the whole world.
He was sin, in it’s fullness.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1
It is finished
Then, something changed….there was a sense of completeness. There was no more sin left to take. It was all in him. He knew it was finished.
Jesus breathed his last breath.
The earth shook violently, a massive earthquake cracking the ground beneath Jesus’ cross. The veil in the temple tore, opening up the way to the Holy of Holies. Graves opened and dead people came to life. Mourning, wailing, screams of terror.
All creation was momentarily torn into fragments.
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. Matt. 27 v. 51-53
Jesus’ blood dripped through the crack in the earth, and trickled down into the caves and tunnels beneath, falling on to the mercy seat that was hidden there.
For more about Jesus’ blood on the mercy seat, see this post
If you don’t know Jesus, please read this