The sorrows of man fell on Jesus
The writer and his wife, Rita, have been Church of God members since the early 1960s. He is an elder serving the Church of God at large. Mr. and Mrs. Kamen attend the Northeast Church of God, Hartford, Conn., and the Rhode Island Church of God, Providence, R.I.
By Peter Kamen
MILFORD, Conn--As we approach the Passover season, it is my custom to reflect upon the significance of Jesus' sacrifice. I consider the scripture in Hebrews 4 that tells us that Christ, our High Priest, was tempted in all points as we are and that He identifies our sufferings.
Yet Jesus suffered physically for only six hours of crucifixion in addition to His arrest and beating the night before. We all know of people who have suffered for much longer periods, even years.
This thought was weighing on my mind, so I took God up on His invitation to come boldly before His throne. I asked for a more nearly perfect understanding of the matter.
God knows that one of the easiest paths into my head is music. I immediately thought of a chorus from Handel's Messiah the text of which is in Isaiah 53:4: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows."
I realized this was, at least in principle, the answer to my question. Jesus bore the griefs and sorrows of all of humanity. The duration of His ordeal was not the issue; it was the scope of His sacrifice.
As I studied this subject, I began to understand something in a way I had not comprehended before.
In the Gospel of Luke appears an account of the fateful journey Jesus took to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 records that, when "the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem."
This was in fulfillment of Isaiah 50:7: "For the Lord God will help me; therefore I shall not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."
Jesus began to feel anxiety about what He knew would be His final confrontation with the Jews and His sacrifice. I mention this because too often movies and books portray Him as almost nonchalantly breezing through the trials at the end of His earthly life, at least until His arrest and beating.
But scriptures such as these in Luke and Isaiah show He knew He needed His Father's help.
Jesus could read the Psalms to glimpse what it would feel like to assimilate the collective sorrows of humanity: "Reproach has broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none" (Psalm 69:20).
Isaiah 53:3 depicts Him as "despised, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief."
With these thoughts in our minds, the accounts of the events of that Passover evening and His prayer to the Father take on a greater dimension.
The sorrows of the world
Jesus walked with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30) and asked them to wait with Him while He prayed. Then (verse 38) His "soul" was "exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death."
The sorrows of all mankind were fast falling on Him. It appears from the next verse that He hadn't known in advance how hard the reality of what was happening would hit Him:
"And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will."
Luke adds a comforting verse: "And when He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him" (Luke 22:41-43).
We have often emphasized the scourging and beating aspects of Christ's sacrifice, and those are of great importance. But I submit that from these accounts we should realize that the emotional aspect of His sacrifice was perhaps of greatest importance.
Jesus wasn't ready for it, even to the point that the Father had to send Him extra strength by means of an angel.
The emotional sacrifice was the greatest because that aspect of His suffering--our grief and sorrows--enhances the most enduring part of His contribution to our salvation.
Saved by His life
He was beaten for our healing (Isaiah 53:5). His death was for our reconciliation. But notice Romans 5:10:
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
How are we saved by His life?
Look at Hebrews 5:7-9 in a new light:
"[Jesus] in the days of his flesh . . . offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and . . . learned obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him."
Note also Hebrews 4:15: ". . . We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin."
As I pondered these scriptures I realized the emotional aspects of Jesus' sacrifice are still an active, continuing part of it. He is alive, at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us.
When we go boldly before the throne of grace, "we obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (verse 16).
Jesus turns to the Father and says, "I know exactly what this person is experiencing. I knew this person's sorrow."
If some of you were ahead of me with these thoughts, that's great.
As we approach the Passover season this year, I hope we can see that truly we have fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
May all of you have a rich and meaningful season.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God