THE SUFFERING AND SACRIFICE OF THE SON OF GOD
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 5, 2013
16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. 21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, The King of the Jews. 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross! 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe. Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. 33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, Behold, he is calling Elijah. 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down. 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God!
-- Mark 15:16-39, ESV
Six hours in this day was the worst time on Earth, yet we Christians call it Good Friday. It was a time in which the worst vices of humanity -- betrayal, cowardice, injustice, dishonesty, brutality, and murder -- were met with the ultimate attributes of deity -- holiness, courage, compassion, justice, truth, and love. God and man converged on the one man who was, is, and always will be God. The confrontation produced the greatest suffering and the ultimate sacrifice from God for man. And it would be good indeed, on a Friday, Sunday, or any day, for every person to appreciate and appropriate the suffering and sacrifice of the Son of God.
Having already suffered abandonment by His friends and condemnation by His foes, the suffering of the true Son of God intensified between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on a Friday. He had not slept all night, enduring three trials at the hands of the Jewish religious rulers. In the early morning hours He had faced swift injustice from the three Roman trials, the last of which included a beating that left Him battered and bleeding profusely. Jesus had suffered so much that He was too weak to carry His own cross to “Golgotha (which means the Place of a Skull)” a place just outside the gates of Jerusalem where executions by crucifixions took place. As if Christ has not suffered enough, look at what the next six hours would bring: mental, physical, and spiritual suffering unlike the world has ever seen.
Jesus suffered by being mocked. To be made fun of is to be mentally tortured. Sticks and stones do break our bones but words hurt the worst. We must remember this the next time we see someone poorly dressed, or physically handicapped, or with tears in their eyes. Hurting people need compassion and care, but often receive laughter and derision. People tend to mock what they do not understand, and surely if they had understood Jesus, no mockery would have taken place. But they mocked, made fun of Him as Jesus suffered that day.
Jesus suffered by being falsely charged. Remember that Jesus was convicted and condemned as a terrorist. No charge can be worse in our day, nor was it in Jesus’ day. The Jews falsely charged that Jesus had threatened to blow up the Temple. The Romans falsely charged Jesus with rebellion against the Emperor. Nothing strikes harder at the core of a person’s character than to be falsely accused of something you did not say or do and, on top of that, to be punished for it! Jesus suffered that day, mentally, and physically.
Jesus suffered by being assaulted. If those Roman soldiers did to any American citizen on our streets today what they did to Jesus on the streets of Jerusalem that day, they would have been arrested and Jesus would have been protected. But not on this Good Friday. Jesus has already been mistreated, physically, during His trial. On the way to the cross, the beatings became bolder and louder. They spit into His wounded face, took clothing on and off of His skinned body, loaded a beam on His back and prodded Him with spears down the via dolorosa (“way of suffering”). It is criminal to treat even a criminal in this way. But Jesus was no criminal and the worst was yet to come.
Jesus suffered by being crucified. No form of capital punishment has ever been as cruel as crucifixion. It combined the worst mental and physical humiliation imaginable. It pierced a person’s hands and feet, nailing them upright on a downright rugged cross. It robbed them of the ability to breath normally. It bled them to death, very slowly. It intensified pain and suffering throughout the body. It broke a man’s confidence, his will, and his heart, literally. Yet for the sinless Christ on His cross, the very worst was still yet to come.
Jesus suffered by being forsaken by God. Jesus was the most man’s man who ever lived, and the extreme mental and physical tortures He endured did not make Him cry. He only cried when He was forsaken by God. The darkest mystery of this dark day is not the darkness that eclipsed the sun from the earth, but the darkness that separated the Son from the Father. Have you ever been about to watch something so horrific that you automatically turned away? Somehow, spiritually, the sins of the world were placed upon the sinless person of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He hung in agony on the cross. Somehow, God the Father could not watch God the Son become sin for us. Somehow, Jesus suffered in a way unknown to any other member of the human race, except of course for those who will take their own sin to judgment when they judge not to repent, believe, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus suffered like many before and after Him who were crucified as criminals of the old Roman Empire. Jesus suffered like the two thieves and robbers (and murderers) who hung on either side of Him. Jesus suffered like people who are themselves innocent victims of violent crime. Jesus suffered like people who are ravished by cancer or some other crippling and terminal disease. So what makes Jesus’ suffering so important and unique? Jesus’ suffering was the ultimate sacrifice.
Sacrifice is the willingness to suffer, even unto death, on behalf of someone else. Spouses sacrifice for one another, parents sacrifice for their children, players sacrifice for their team, and in the most poignant human way, first responders and soldiers sacrifice for their countrymen. Suffering the loss of money, time, comfort, health, even life, for the sake of someone else is sacrifice. Yet mingled with all these sacrifices we sometimes willingly make for others, there is also a sense of duty or obligation involved. I do not mean to diminish the ideal of sacrifice, but virtually all human sacrifices are intertwined with obligation, reward, or some reciprocation. Spouses and parents usually get love and sacrifice in return, players and soldiers get pay and benefits, as do preachers and missionaries.
Jesus sacrificed His life in such a way that is vastly superior to any other sacrifice ever known to man. It is superior in the motive behind it and the means it accomplished. Christ’s sacrifice is absolutely perfect because He did not have to offer it; and, those who benefit from it will never, never lose what they have been given.
There was no duty, no obligation, no reason that God would become a man and live on planet Earth. God is not like us, God does not need us, and God would be just if He wiped out the human race so that He could enjoy His perfect creation without the imperfections we bring to it and inflict upon it. Please know this about God, that He does not need us. But please know this about God, also: God loves us. Yes, with a holy, unselfish, perfect, sacrificial love, God loves us, His people. And Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross is the sacrifice, the only sacrifice, totally motivated and accomplished by absolute, unadulterated love.
And the result is holiness, oneness, forgiveness, righteousness, in the only way God can apply it to man. This is the reason “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” That curtain would have been too tall for a man to tear beginning at the top. That curtain separated the people from the “Holy of Holies,” the place where the Jewish high priest took blood to present in the presence of God as an atonement or sacrifice for sin. When Jesus shed His blood on the cross, when the Lord pronounced another of the seven recorded sayings from the cross, “It is finished,” this is when He breathed His last, this is when the veil was torn, this is when God was satisfied to let the blood of Jesus Christ atone for the sin of every person who will ever call upon the name of the Lord. Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice was for salvation, a once-in-a-lifetime offering that once received, can never-in-our-lifetime be taken away.
Mark’s account of the suffering and sacrifice of the Son of God closes with the confession of a lone Roman soldier, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Does this mean the soldier received the salvation of the Lord?
Well, it depends. Some people say this confession of faith and do not mean it. Other people mean it but do not say it in precise words. We cannot judge this centurion’s profession of faith based upon what he said, even what he did at the moment, but upon the way in which he lived his life from that point forward. And for him, there is no record, we cannot know.
But you can know whether or not the suffering and sacrifice of the Son of God has been reckoned permanently to your account. “Truly,” do you believe that Jesus was “this man” described here in Holy Scripture? Do you believe He had flesh and bone, that He became human, and that He literally died on that Roman cross outside Jerusalem? Do you believe Jesus was, is, and always will be “the Son of God,” meaning He is and is equal to God, was begotten or revealed or manifested as God, not created by God, as our confession say “God of very God?” Do you believe God died for man so that man can be right with and saved by God? Do you believe by grace through faith in the perfect person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and do you love Him enough to seek to follow and obey Him the rest or your life?
Then, and only then, has the suffering and sacrifice of the Son of God brought salvation to your soul. And then, and only then, can you even begin to understand why He did it. And soon, and very soon, you will see your Messiah, your Savior, your Lord, your King face to face, not hanging in agony on an old rugged cross, but radiant in perfection in the perfect place He has prepared for you. Behold His suffering, accept His sacrifice, and enjoy the salvation of the Lord forever and ever.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org