Suffering Savior No. 1

I recently began a sermon series entitled, “The Trials of Christ.” I plan to preach for several weeks on the moments Jesus endured on His way to the cross. Examining the impact of each moment from the Last Supper to the crucifixion should give us a better understanding of what Jesus endured that fateful day. As we begin, I want to remind you of Isaiah 53 and the passage that predicted these moments. It says:

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes 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; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked – but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge, My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

All of us can easily read those words and connect them to Jesus Christ. His sacrifice on the cross was that “chastisement” (53:5). The “oppression” and the “affliction” He endured was the mock trial and severe beating that came from His Jewish brothers and the Roman soldiers. They are brutal, barbaric, and some of the saddest moments in all of history, but they aren’t the only things (or people) that tortured Him that day.

Studying for these lessons, I came away profoundly amazed at the secondary sources of pain and I couldn’t help but be shocked at all Christ endured from His Apostles. We easily mock them falling asleep in the Garden or even lunging to cut off a servant’s ear, but do we see how they contributed to the emotional and physical pain Jesus endured? I believe these trials were the moments that tested Jesus’ patience the most. I don’t present them today so you’ll feel sorry for Jesus, rather, I hope you’ll be amazed at all He was able to endure in such a short period of time. Let’s take a look at the Last Supper and see all Jesus endured.

First off, we can’t overlook the mental anguish that could have overwhelmed Jesus as He named His betrayer. Take a look at this thread as it runs through the first three gospels:

Matthew 26:21-24 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?” He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Mark 14:18-21 Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said,Is it I?” He answered and said to them, It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”

Luke 22:21-23 Behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.

What’s most fascinating is the thought that Jesus looked Judas right in the eye and told him, you are going to betray Me. Ironically, most of the other Apostles would also abandon Him during the public trials and crucifixion also. Only John would stay faithful and remain with Jesus through those dark moments and death. Thankfully, after His death, the others (minus Judas) would eventually reconvene but they’re nowhere to be found when Jesus needed them the most.

While I can’t begin to empathize with Jesus’ feelings at that moment, I don’t believe it’s too much of a stretch to say it hurt Him to say them. These were His closest friends, His companions, the people He called to be His very own. Knowing that one of them would betray Him could have easily been enough to shake most men, but not Jesus. His eternal understanding of what Judas had to do made this possible, but it couldn’t have made it easy.

When we see Judas personally ask Jesus in Matthew 26:25, “Rabbi, is it I,” I can’t help but be offended. I want to go back in time and punch him in the face. I want to call out the fraud for all he’s about to do. I want to stop him. Yet here is Jesus, calming saying in response to that openly rebellious question, “You have said it.” One question I have to ask is where was Peter at that moment? He was always quick to speak up, why not know? Why not ask Jesus, “what do you mean?” Why not question Judas? Why is there not a single, solitary statement from any of the Apostles after those words? Maybe they didn’t hear them. Maybe it was a quiet moment between Jesus and Judas. Maybe, they just didn’t believe it was possible. No one outside of that room will ever truly know.

I’d like you to notice something simple, the present tense of the phrase, “Judas, who was betraying Him,” in that verse. Deep down, I know it would take a lot for me to eat with a person who threatened me. It would take even more patience, forgiveness and understanding to even share a room with that person knowing what he was about to do. The emotional toll it must have taken on Jesus to not just eat with Judas or share a room with Judas but to actually love, serve, and die for Judas is beyond me. Thankfully, it’s not beyond our Savior.

Secondly, in a passage we often overlook, notice how the Apostles used this time to continue their discussion about earthly greatness. It says in Luke 22:24-27:

Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”

Of all the times to have a discussion about how great we are, sitting in the presence of Jesus at the Last Supper takes the proverbial cake. It shouldn’t be lost on us that many of Jesus’ contemporaries just didn’t understand what they were witnessing. They were too busy being human to appreciate the Divine in their midst. These people, however, aren’t ordinary, run-of-the-mill disciples. They’re the Apostles for crying out loud. Shouldn’t they know better by now? He had taught them to be servants, to put God’s Will first, and even to be child-like in their faith, yet here they are, still worried about who’s first in line.

I can’t begin to imagine why Jesus felt compelled to wash their feet immediately after the supper? John 13:2-15 describes the scene and if I were putting together a timeline of these events, I might put the moment He rises from His seat in John 13 right after their greatness debate. It would be incredibly poetic. He had just served them a meal, now He was going about fulfilling the lowest act of service possible by washing their feet. He was willing to humiliate Himself by taking the place of a peasant, even though He was a King.

I wonder what it must have been like to see Him do it? I wonder what their faces looked like as they watched Him? I wonder how many of them never forgot that moment throughout the ensuing years of their life? I wonder if anything was ever beneath them again?

The more I think about these moments, the more I want to be there. Not to see the looks on their faces, instead, I long to see the look on Jesus’ face as those closest to Him acted foolishly, treacherously, and arrogantly in these final few moments. We know His heart was heavy by the scenes from Gethsemane. We know He knew what was coming. We know this was the calm before the storm. Could we possibly fathom how it must have felt, bearing all that pain and guilt, longing for it be over, knowing it must happen? We honestly have no idea, but we can go back to Isaiah to appreciate what Jesus must have felt.

He was “crushed and put to grief,” (see Isaiah 53:10), but able to endure. Thank you Lord for showing us how to suffer with dignity, grace, and purpose.


All Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.