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How He Suffered!
Text: Lk.22:63-35 "Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him."
Many people today don’t think that God has any right to hold us to account for the choices we make in life. Some will even try to maintain that God (if he exists at all) is the one who is ultimately responsible for the mess we’re in because he has made us the way we are. They therefore conclude that he has no right to bar us from his heaven even if in this life we have not shown the slightest interest in it or in him.
The truth of the matter is that God does not wish to bar us from his heaven! And in fact he has done everything necessary to open a way by which we may safely enter and that way is through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God has opened up this way for us because of his great love. He does not accept the charge of being responsible for the sin of this world and he does not agree that he has no right to hold us to account. His solution to our predicament does not gloss over our failures and shortcomings – sin is sin and we must acknowledge it to be so - but God’s solution tackles the problem of our sin head on.
Men and women try all kinds of things in their attempts to wriggle out of their guilty responsibility before God. Sometimes they will accuse God of having no real understanding of what life is like for us and then go on to suggest that he therefore has no right to judge us. That sentiment was expressed well in a short playlet written in the second half of the 20 th century. Let me read it to you:
The Long Silence
At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame - but with belligerence.
"Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?", snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror ... beatings ... torture ... death!"
In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched, for no crime but being black !"
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.
How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.
Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.
Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.
For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.
This morning as we think about our text from the Word of God we will be focusing our thoughts upon some of the ways in which God in the person of Jesus Christ did actually serve that sentence.
Where are we?
As we work our way through Luke’s account of the life of Jesus we are nearing the end. Jesus has been betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is in the hands of the Jewish leadership being kept under guard in the residence of the Jewish high priest prior to being delivered over to the Roman authorities.
During a night session an informal death sentence was passed on Jesus. That procedure was actually illegal under Jewish law – no man was to be condemned to death during the hours of darkness – and so in order to keep up a semblance of legitimacy a further consultation was scheduled for first thing the following morning. The morning session would formalize the decision that had already effectively been taken – Jesus was to die.
Luke describes for us what took place between those two hearings in vv.63-65.
The Price of Sin
As Luke begins to describe for us the type of treatment that Jesus received let us realise that this was the price he had to pay in order to deal with the problem of our sin. If you are ever tempted to imagine that sin is purely personal and hence unimportant or insignificant then what you need to do is to stop for a moment and consider Jesus’ and his sufferings.
The sufferings that Luke describes in such restrained tones here are wide-ranging including physical pain and discomfort, psychological/emotional pressure, and verbal harassment. You may know something of this too in your own personal experience and I want to tell you that Jesus knows and understands what it is like to be on the receiving end of such suffering. You may or may not have contributed to your own suffering – Jesus’ suffering was not due to anything that he had done wrong. He had come into the world to save sinners. The life he lived was a life that was totally free from the taint of sin. Yet he suffered and suffered greatly. His sufferings were for us. They were part of God’s plan of providing a way for sinners like us to be forgiven and brought into a right relationship with himself.
The sufferings Jesus underwent show us how seriously God takes sin, all sin. He refuses to wink at it or to sweep it under the carpet and instead to provide us with a solution for our sin he asked his Son to suffer for it in our place!
The list of sufferings to which Jesus was exposed is a long one and we will look briefly at what was involved on this particular occasion.
He was held in custody
Jesus having been arrested was deprived of his freedom. The words used to describe him being held in custody or guarded indicate that he had been hemmed-in or restricted, confined. Perhaps this is normal when a person is arrested but we must always remember that this was a case of wrongful arrest for Jesus was guilty of no crime, no misdemeanour and consequently any restriction placed upon his freedom, his liberty, was unwarranted and unjust.
He was mocked
To mock someone means to make fun of them, to play with them, treating them as an object rather than respecting them as a person. It means to treat them as though they are not what they in reality are. Thus here in Jesus’ case the mockery involved both an implicit and an explicit denial that he was who he said he was: the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God. This mockery that refused to recognise that he was who he said he was was expressed both in the words that they used to address him and in the things that they did to him.
He was beaten
Although no formal, legally acceptable trial had taken place and hence no sentence duly passed, Jesus was roughed up as though he were guilty and worthy of such poor treatment. His guards rained blows upon him and were not in any way restrained by the Jewish authorities who were only too pleased to have him at their mercy.
He was blindfolded
His head was covered over so that he could not see those about him – a torture technique that sadly is still employed today. This was a little bit of psychological warfare, an attempt to disorient a prisoner and to further weaken his resolve. You know how helpless you can feel when suddenly the lights are turned out and you can no longer see. Here it was not only that Jesus could no longer see where he was or what was going on around him, he could not see from which angle the next blow or slap was going to come. He had no way of preparing himself for the next punch in the face that cruelly came his way.
He was persistently questioned
While in this blindfolded state and as blow after blow fell upon him Jesus was constantly verbally challenged by his tormentors to identify who it was who struck him. To what bullying intimidation he was exposed! Over and over again they called upon this prophet from Nazareth to prophesy and declare who it was that was hitting him.
What an irony there was in this! They repeatedly challenged him to prophesy about what was taking place and yet Luke has already told us several times that Jesus had prophesied that exactly this sort of thing would take place and that at a time when it didn’t look very likely at all!
Lk.9:22 "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."
Lk.18:32-33 "For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise."
He was insulted and reviled
But still they hadn’t finished. Physical and psychological or emotional abuse was compounded with harsh verbal abuse too.
At this point Luke draws a veil and restrains himself. He won’t go into all the shameful details of the insults as they not only poured scorn upon him but as they reviled him, maligning him and slandering him. But Luke does tell us that they "said many other things against him, blaspheming him."
Jesus was frequently accused of blasphemy by the Jewish authorities but here Luke tells us that he was made the butt of their verbal assaults and that these assaults amounted to blasphemy against him. They refused to acknowledge just who he was and were forthright and degrading in the way they rejected him and spoke to him
And if that wasn’t enough Matthew and Mark both add that he was spat upon as well as slapped with blows. How humiliating to be spat upon, how offensive it is, but how readily these men humiliated the man from Nazareth, the one who had the reputation of going around doing good to others!
We don’t know how long it lasted. We don’t know how long it took for his captors to grow weary of heaping their insults and injuries upon him but this phase of his sufferings did come to an end. They would soon be replaced by the further more intense sufferings of a new day.
And while all this was taking place down below in the courtyard Peter was busily trying to deny any and every suggestion that he had anything whatsoever to do with this man called Jesus. Years later Peter would look back on how Jesus had conducted himself so nobly through it all. We read about it and his subsequent sufferings in Peter’s first letter:
1Pet.2:23-24 "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."
The reason Jesus suffered such poor treatment as Luke describes here and the reason why he would go on to suffer the ignominy and shame of crucifixion is because God hates sin so much that the only way in which a salvation could be offered to sinners like you and me was by Jesus suffering what we deserve so that we might go free!
Have you begun to understand this yet?
You might not like to think of sin as being very serious but don’t for a moment imagine that God is of the same opinion. For God sin is awful and it did awful things to his Son. He allowed it to happen, indeed he ordained it to happen, so that he might pardon and forgive the sins of folk like you and me.
Jesus had done nothing to be treated the way he was. We on the other hand have come short of God’s holy standards again and again and would have no grounds to complain should God’s righteous judgment fall on us and carry us away.
When we look at the sufferings of Christ we are meant to see how serious sin is and we are meant to realise that what he suffered is what we deserve for our sins. And there is more that we are meant to see too. Jesus’ suffering is God’s way of sparing us from the punishment that is justly coming our way. Jesus suffered and died that those who trust him need not. Jesus suffered and died so that those who trust him will never experience the wrath of God.
But it is not enough to see, to understand, we must individually and personally put our trust in the Saviour. We must call upon him – not with the reviling mocking scornful words of opponents and enemies but with admission of guilt, with confession of sin and with pleading for mercy.
I first did that as a teenager and received at that time the forgiveness of my sins. He has kept me ever since and will keep me to the end.
It is never too early to come to Jesus Christ nor is it ever too late. You can come to Jesus right now by calling out to him in your heart to save you and to forgive you your sins.
Oh yes, there is a price to be paid in becoming a Christian. You may have to face opposition from some of your friends, from members of your own family perhaps. Yes, you may be mocked and reviled and you may even be exposed to physical, psychological and emotional abuse. When you know however that Jesus has saved your never-dying soul you will wear all those sufferings of yours as a badge of honour. No, you won’t think for a moment that your suffering is somehow paying the price of your own salvation but you’ll see it as a sign that he has counted you worthy of suffering for his name.
May God save us all!