The Death of Christ - An Act of Immeasurable Suffering

They (the prophets) sought to find out what or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (1 Peter 1:11)

Although there was much the prophets did not understand about Christ’s death, they did understand that the Messiah would suffer as none ever suffered before and they bore testimony to this fact in their writings. Isaiah spoke of His death as a slaughter, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). In describing His sufferings through David, the Suffering One says, “all my bones are out of joint…my strength is dried up like a fragment of clay pottery…my tongue clings to my jaws…they pierced my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:14-16).

It was also testified that Christ had to suffer first before He should enter into His glory. The sufferings had to precede the glories that would follow. Many of the prophets also speak of His coming millennial glory when He shall reign as King upon this earth. If His reign is going to be a manifestation of great glory, then it is evident that His death was a manifestation of great suffering. If the manifestation of Christ on earth will result in blazing glory from heaven as “the Sun of Righteousness will arise” (Malachi 4:2); so the sufferings for sin brought forth the greatest darkness ever manifested by heaven, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1)

Joseph is a beautiful picture of Christ in this manner. He suffered deeply before he entered into his glory.

…Christ also suffered for us…; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree…. (1 Peter 2:20-25)

It is not surprising that Peter should mention often the sufferings of Christ. He saw Him suffering and was undoubtedly moved by what he saw. While Christ was here on earth before He went to the cross, Peter had been an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration. (2 Peter 1:16) He obviously never forgot this sight, but he also never forgot His sufferings. In the above passage, there are at least five amazing facts we learn about His suffering.

  1. He suffered in an exemplary manner. (vs.20, 21) The manner in which He conducted Himself under intense suffering becomes a model to all Christians who must suffer for His Name’s sake.
  2. He suffered submissively. (v.23) Although He was unjustly arrested and afflicted, He committed Himself to God who judges righteously.
  3. He suffered vicariously. (v.24) He did not suffer for His own sins, but He bore our sins.
  4. He suffered voluntarily. (v.24) He Himself bore our sins. He voluntarily took our guilt upon Himself.
  5. He suffered with a purpose. (v.25) We were like sheep going astray, but through His suffering we have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:6)   Deeply moved by this Suffering One in Isaiah 53, the Ethiopian eunuch turned to Philip and begged him to tell him of whom the prophet was speaking. Beginning with this portion of Scripture, Philip preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:32-35).

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…. (1 Peter 3:18)  As Peter further defines the sufferings of Christ, three fundamental truths are stated about His death that can never be altered.

  1. He suffered once for sins. His sufferings never had to be repeated or added to. They were sufficient to pay the penalty of our sins forever. “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)
  2. He suffered the just for the unjust. He took the place of the rebellious and guilty sinner when He suffered on the cross. “He (God) made Him who knew no sin (the just one) to be sin for us (the unjust).” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  3. He suffered that He might bring us to God. Obviously the gulf between us and God could never have been crossed unless He suffered first for our sins on the cross.
I saw One hanging on a tree, in agony and blood;
He fixed His loving eyes on me, as near His cross I stood.
O, can it be, upon a tree, the Savior died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled, to think He died for me!
(John Newton)