Passion week is often a time to reflect on the sufferings of Jesus. We remember that he was scourged … an incredibly horrific beating that left many dead. We remember the torture he received at the hands of the soldiers who beat him and mocked him. We remember that he was crucified … a slow and painful death made much worse by the shame of public display associated with it. This level of suffering causes us to have a measure of sympathy.
There is, of course, an appropriate place for remembering all of this. After all, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 foreshadow the sufferings of Messiah. However, let us also remember that many others were beaten to death, many others were crucified, many others endured public humiliation, and many others suffered greatly. Thus, the greatest suffering on the cross was not physical pain associated with it. In fact, we know more about the process of crucifixion from the history books than we know about it from the Bible. The Bible records rather matter of factly, “they crucified him.” So what is the greatest suffering on the cross?
An answer to that question comes in Matthew 27:46. The Bible records Jesus making a total of seven statements on the cross:
- Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing
- Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!
- Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise
- My God, My God why have you forsaken me?
- I thirst
- It is finished
- Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit
It is this fourth statement that I would like us to consider. It is a quote from Psalm 22 – a psalm that emphasizes loneliness and being forsaken. According to the Scripture, he utters this statement during the three hour period where darkness covers the land. It seems that the biblical writers are wanting us to see the connection between darkness and forsaken. This is the point where Jesus is not only suffering the physical pain of the cross – like all others who were crucified – but also the suffering associated with God the Father pouring out his wrath.
Friends, Jesus did not simply endure the pain of crucifixion; Jesus endured the wrath of his Father. Jesus endured the payment for sins he never committed. Jesus endured the payment for your sins and mine. That was the greatest suffering on the cross. Without this suffering, your sins could never be permanently separated from you.
So this week, read Hebrews 8-10 and enjoy the fact that Jesus entered the Holy Place in heaven and brought his own blood so you could be cleansed forever. Read Matthew 27:46 and its context and praise the Lord that he said “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” so you would never have to say those words – ever.