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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’s Suffering’

 Zwald-62

 

One of the “Letters to the Editor” in the most recent issue of Country Magazine caught my attention. The writer, James, related an event from his boyhood days on a farm in the 1940s.

Seems he had injured his hand quite severely one day while tightening a chain. But work on a farm doesn’t wait, especially during hay-baling season when the hay is ripe for harvesting. So in spite of his injury, James had to wear rough work gloves as he operated the wire baler. Every day for a week when he removed the gloves, the scab on his hand would come off and the wound would bleed profusely again.

On Sunday afternoon he plopped down on the living carpet to take a nap. His dog, Shadow, came to lie down beside him. But instead of settling in for a snooze himself, Shadow began to lick James’ wound. It actually felt good, James explains, so he let the dog continue.

The next morning James was astonished to see that his wound was completely healed. “It was as if the injury had never happened.”

Not until much later did James find out that a dog’s saliva contains healing properties. That’s why, when injured, they will lick their own wounds over and over.

I found James’ story particularly interesting because of a question that had been niggling in my mind this Easter season: Why did Jesus bear the scars of the crucifixion—in his hands, feet, and side–after the resurrection? It was certainly within God’s power to return Christ’s physical body to perfect wholeness, “as if the injuries had never happened.”

Come to find out, I’m not the first one to consider this question. As far back as the seventh century, Saint Bede of England (672-735, A.D.) wrote about the possibilities. Many others throughout the ages of the church have contemplated the reasons, including the following:

  1. The scars were proof to the disciples that he was the same person after resurrection as before. Had Jesus been completely restored, his followers may have assumed that their first inclination was correct: that what they saw was an apparition of Christ. After all, he appeared to them out of nowhere—an impossibility for a physical body.

But they not only saw him, Jesus invited them to touch him, so there could be no doubt (Luke 24:36-42).

  1. The scars were part of the proof of the prophecy that Jesus spoke of himself, that he would suffer, be killed, and rise again on the third day (Matthew 16:21). “This is what I told you,” Jesus reminded them (Luke 24:44).
  1. The scars provided evidence of Jesus’ physical body. Early in church history there were those who taught that Jesus didn’t really suffer on the cross. He was not truly human, therefore he only appeared to suffer.

They could not fathom the sinless Son of God submitting himself to such humiliation and horrific pain.   But dismissing the agony of Christ on the cross as well as the scars is incomprehensible.

Those three answers do quiet our curiosity, but what relevance might Jesus’ scars provide for us today?

  1. The scars prove that Jesus knows what it means to suffer. Crucifixion is the most cruel of death penalties, the worst that man can deliver. No one can say, “Jesus doesn’t know what I’m going through.” No, he is well-acquainted with grief. He knows what it’s like to bear scars of suffering.
  1. The scars prove God’s love and compassion. As the Son of God, he didn’t have to suffer on our behalf. Surely he could have devised a less abhorrent way. Instead, he identified himself with humanity by becoming human himself. He took our physical, emotional, and spiritual pain upon himself.   And he will wear the scars of suffering for eternity (Revelation 5:6).
  1. The scars remind us of what is to come. On Good Friday, Jesus body was beaten, bruised, and pierced. On Easter Sunday, those wounds became scars. A miraculous healing of gruesome wounds had occurred in a matter of hours.

One day a miraculous healing of our gruesome wounds will take place. Pain, suffering, loss, illness, and physical challenges will cease. Every negative aspect of life will melt away.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Lord Jesus, thank you, THANK YOU for carrying our pains, our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.  Thank you for taking the punishment we deserve and making us whole.  You are the one and only source of eternal salvation.  And only through your eternal bruises are we healed.  Out of overwhelming gratitude, we give ourselves to you.  We want to follow your example and please you.  Make us into what gives you pleasure.  

All glory to you, Jesus, forever and always!”  

 (Isaiah 53:4-6; Hebrews 5:9, 13:21, MSG)

Photo credits:  www.motherearthnews.com

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Jesus-Praying-Last-Supper-570x377

 

Whether I heard it or read it, I don’t remember. But the words caught me by surprise, and I jotted them down:

“What was uppermost in Jesus’ mind as Good Friday approached?

“Joy.”

Do you find that surprising, too?

Yet at least three times on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus spoke about joy (John 15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13)–a most unusual topic and completely unnatural.  Who thinks about joy when they know that catastrophe is about to strike?

Jesus, that’s who.

Within the next twenty-four hours he would face excruciating pain, total abandonment by his Father, and the most horrific death ever devised.

But his concern was for his disciples, not himself.  Jesus wanted them to remember the important principles of love, obedience, and joy–an empowering joy that no one could take away from them.

Perhaps you remember the scene. Jesus and his disciples had just finished their last Passover supper together. After the meal, he taught his final lesson.

The first mention of joy came near the end of his teaching about the vine and the branches:

“I have told you this

so that my joy may be in you

and that your joy may be complete”

(John 15:11).

The word, “this,” refers to the ways Jesus had just mentioned that will contribute to joy:

1.  Live close to him and produce much good in and through your life (vs.4-8).

2.  Live in obedience to Jesus and experience the warmth, peace, and care of His love (vs. 9-10).

 Note that Jesus wanted his joy to be in the hearts of his disciples. What characterized his joy, compared to that of others?

  1. Strong awareness of the Father’s love for him, and his own love for the Father (vs. 9-10).
  1. Absolute surrender and self-sacrifice of himself to his Father, and the joy of doing what his father had sent him to do. Even during his great travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, his one desire was to do his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus’ joy coexisted with the profound sorrow of his impending suffering, because he was already well-acquainted with the satisfaction and fulfillment of obedience.

  1. The understanding that joy deferred to the future is anticipatory joy in the present. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

And finally, Jesus told his disciples that he desired complete joy for them. What does complete joy look like? It is:

  • Not so much an emotion as it is a conviction (Keith Krell, “Moment by Moment,” http://www.bible.org).
  • Inner contentment, resulting from continually cultivating an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Constant, not dependent on circumstances.
  • Enduring, day after day. Indestructible.
  • Perfect—the perfect, joy-filled fulfillment of the destiny for which God created you, even when a portion of that destiny is suffering.

I’m thinking of the martyrs–Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe and countless others who demonstrated complete joy even as they died in anguish.

Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna for many years, refused to revile Jesus. For that he was burned at the stake.

But before the flames rose up, Polycarp prayed:

“O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself…I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting…”

Such devotion, courage, and supernatural strength are impossible to fathom apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Can you hear the grace in Polycarp’s voice as he blessed God for the privilege of dying a martyr?

That is complete joy, only experienced by those who trust in Jesus implicitly.

Complete joy that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We marvel, Heavenly Father, in the extreme paradox that is the cross. Out of the evil unleashed upon your Son comes your holy, righteous goodness–upon us. Out of the horror of the crucifixion that Jesus endured comes inexpressible and glorious joy, to those who put their faith in him–not a temporary feeling of elation, but deep, abiding, abundant joy. 

All praise to you, our loving, gracious God!       

(Acts 3:13-16, 1 Peter 1:8, John 6:47, John 10:10)

 

(Photo credit:  www.rejesus.co.uk.)

 

 

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