Speaking the Truth in Love

Was His Suffering Unique?

The Jews plotted the death of Jesus, and the Romans executed him. The temple officers blindfolded him, mocked him, spat on him, and struck his face with their fists. The soldiers whipped him, crowned him with thorns, struck his head with a mock scepter, and crucified him.

The suffering of Jesus was severe. No question about that. The “cruc [crux]” in “excruciating” is Latin for “cross.” But Jesus wasn’t the only man ever crucified. The Bible itself reports that he died between two crucified criminals. The Romans crucified thousands of people, and in our own time Isis thugs have been crucifying even children.

Crucifixion is terribly cruel, but it isn’t the worst suffering imaginable. Consider the tragic plight of a young girl sold to sex traffickers by her own poverty-stricken parents. She is a slave subjected to endless degradation and assault. Her ordeal lasts for years and years and ends with a drug overdose. Wouldn’t a few hours on the cross be more bearable than that? And think about the person suffering unrelenting chronic pain—pain that interferes with sleep and doesn’t respond to medication or surgery. Wouldn’t a few hours on the cross be more bearable than decades of torment?

The Bible never says that the Lord’s death was the worst ordeal of physical torture anyone has ever suffered. It wasn’t. But for more than one reason his suffering was unique.

The Lord’s suffering is unique because of who he is. Mistreating a puppy is a terrible thing. Tormenting a little child is far worse. He belongs to a higher order of creation. But Jesus isn’t a creature. He is the Creator. Torturing God’s own Son is unthinkably evil.

And the Lord’s suffering is unique because of what he did. Suffering didn’t catch him by surprise. Suffering wasn’t an inevitable feature of his existence. For reasons only explicable in terms of the purest love, Jesus left his own glory, assumed human flesh, and suffered death to give us life!

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