Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:15-20 (NIV)
The Scriptures show great restraint in describing the physical sufferings of Jesus. No description. No gory details.
There’s a real temptation for preachers to use the violence of what Jesus suffered to shock people. But you don’t find that in the Bible. There is no attempt to have an impact by making people squirm over the sufferings of Jesus; no grotesque descriptions of the violence to get people’s attention.
God speaks the truth. He never manipulates. I want to be careful not to go beyond what is written today.
The relevance of Jesus’ sufferings
The Bible gives us a restrained description of Christ’s sufferings. But it also gives us explicit application of all that he suffered. Most of us are clear about how Christ’s death speaks to us today. He died for our sins. He died in our place. He bore our guilt. He took our judgment.
That’s what Christ did in His death. We will come to that next time. The question before us today is not: How does the death of Jesus touch my life? But: How do the sufferings of Jesus speak into my life?
I want us to see the Bible’s answer to this question up-front today. Normally, sermons begin with the teaching, and then we come to the application. Today we’re doing it the other way round. I want us to see the application first, and then our eyes and ears will be open to the teaching. What is the application specifically of Jesus’ suffering to our lives today?
Find Comfort in the Experience of Jesus
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God…should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
The word ‘perfect’ here means complete. Christ became the Savior He is through His suffering. Suffering shapes a person. What you endure builds character, depth, and sensitivity into your life.
Jesus has been there
A Savior who had never suffered would lack character, depth, and sensitivity. There would be a whole realm of life that He could not relate to, but Jesus does not lack any of these things. What He suffered made Him a perfect Savior, who is not distant or remote, like an idol who stares aloof:
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
When you suffer, you are drawn to someone who has been there. There is all the difference in the world between talking with a person who has been through the same kind of experience and someone who has not.
Study the religions of the world and you will find that they all teach about suffering, but here we have a person who says: “I have been through it and I will walk with you.” God wants you to find comfort in the experience of Jesus.
Find Direction in the Example of Jesus
Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21)
At some point in your life, there will be people who oppose you. They may hate you. They will hurt you. You may experience this in business; someone tries to destroy you. You may experience this in your family.
Peter says that the suffering of Jesus gives us a model to follow when we endure the wounding, destroying power of other people. God wants you to find direction in the example of Jesus.
When they hurled their insults at him, He did not retaliate. (v23)
When someone hurts you, your first human instinct will be to hurt them back. Peter says “Don’t do that.” Jesus did not do that. He did not retaliate. When someone undermines confidence in you, your first instinct will be to undermine confidence in them. Jesus did not do that.
When he suffered, he made no threats… (v23)
If anyone was entitled to make threats it was our Lord Jesus. He could have threatened hellfire and damnation. But He chose not to do that. And Peter said “Neither should you.” Never make threats. Don’t threaten to get even. Don’t threaten to resign. Don’t threaten to leave. Don’t say, “If you do this to me, I will do that to you.” Jesus made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (v23)
He trusted God. Christ suffered injustice, and He entrusted himself into the hands of the Father, who knows all things, and will one day make them known. He knew that God judges justly. And He trusted God to do that for Him.
In this, He is our example. We have to live in a world where sometimes there is no way of getting justice. The truth is not known, and if it was, it would not be believed. How do you live in a world like that? You hold on to the justice of God. Your Father knows. He has set a day when everyone else will know what He knows. You can trust Him on that.
Find Strength in the Endurance of Jesus
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:3)
Take time to reflect on the sufferings of Jesus. Think about the opposition He faced. Think about the hostility he endured.
Notice the effect. When you do that, you will not grow weary; you will not lose heart. Meditation on the sufferings of Jesus will sustain you in ministry; it will strengthen you as a follower of Christ.
One of the biggest challenges you will face as a Christian is that there will be times when you just get weary of the battle. Following Christ isn’t easy. Ministry brings many pressures. When discouragements pile up, it’s easy to lose heart.
“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men” (v3). This is what we are doing today. And here’s the value of doing it—so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Remember all this is the application. We’re discovering the use of the sufferings of Jesus in our lives today. And we’re learning that in Him we can find comfort, direction, and strength for our own lives. That’s why we are given these Scriptures. That’s how the suffering of Jesus touches our lives today.
I want us to see four ways in which Christ suffered at the hands of His enemies. He was bound. He was falsely accused. He was flogged. And He was ridiculed.
Jesus is bound
They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. (Mark 15:1)
The hands that healed are bound. The feet that brought good news are fettered. Ropes twisted together in the streets of Jerusalem bind the wrists of the Son of God.
This binding means that Christ was brought under the power of His enemies. Those who wanted to destroy Him now have power over Him, and God allowed it to be so. Jesus said “This is the hour where darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).
Couldn’t Jesus have broken these bindings? The answer is ‘No.’ Here’s why: God has determined that at this moment, Jesus should be bound. And God cannot deny Himself. So heaven cannot break these bindings. Since the will of Jesus is to do the will of the Father, even Jesus cannot break these bindings.
Klaas Schilder, whose writings are so helpful here, says “Speaking generally, God can break all bonds.” Then he points out that ‘speaking generally’ is irrelevant to what is happening here in the sufferings of Jesus. There is nothing ‘normal’ about Gethsemane, about Calvary. This is unique. This is God redeeming the world in Christ.
Christ really is bound. He is in the hands of His enemies. You may find yourself in the hands of someone who wants to destroy you professionally, financially, personally. You may find yourself in a situation where people who see a world without you are given power over you. And there isn’t anything you can do about it. You are bound! You find yourself crying out to God: How is this possible? He says to you: I have been there. I will walk with you. I will give you comfort, direction and strength.
Jesus was falsely accused
The chief priests accused him of many things. (Mark 15:3)
Christ was denied justice in the Roman court. Roman law is one of the great legacies of the Roman Empire. The Romans were proud of their system of justice. They felt that this was one of their gifts to the world.
Pilate represented the Roman justice system. His job was to represent the emperor by protecting the innocent and confronting the guilty. But when Christ comes before Pilate, there is no protection.
Pilate finds no charge against Jesus. The crowd is calling for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate asks “Why, what crime has he committed?” (v14). There is no answer to that question, just a growing chorus calling for his death. Courts of law are supposed to protect against the blood thirst of a crowd. But Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified.
After the trial, the soldiers were allowed to gather round Jesus in a charade of mockery and brutality (v16-20). Again, a proper legal process should never have allowed this.
Law and order is a gift from God, but it is a gift that operates in a fallen world. Sometimes the guilty are indicted – sometimes they go free. Sometimes the innocent are protected – sometimes they are not. That’s true even in the world’s best systems of justice.
Jesus made no reply to the accusations that were made against Him. Christ spoke the truth where there was readiness to receive the truth. But this court was not seeking truth. So he remained silent.
You can expect to face some situations in your life where you are falsely accused. You may be able to answer. You may be able to clear your name. And if you can do that you should do so.
But there may come a time when you cannot undo the damage of a false accusation. The sheer number of falsehoods spoken against you may make an answer impossible. You may find yourself crying out to God: How is this possible? And He will say to you: I have been there. I will walk with you. I will give you comfort, direction and strength.
Jesus was flogged
Pilate… had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15)
Jesus endured unspeakable physical pain, and this part of His suffering speaks right into our lives today. Some of us have experienced physical pain inflicted by another person. Christ has been there. Many of us will experience physical pain at some point in our lives perhaps through an accident or even through an illness.
What is the greatest physical pain you have experienced? Whatever it was, or is or will be, the Lord Jesus Christ has been there. He will walk with you. When you experience great pain, you may be tempted to curse God just as Job’s wife wanted to. Don’t do that.
Jesus suffered leaving an example that we may walk in His footsteps, and His promise is that even in great pain, He will walk with you. He will give you comfort, direction and strength.
Jesus was ridiculed
When they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. (Mark 15:20)
Mark tells us about the taunting of Jesus. The soldiers humiliate Him. Pilate had asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied “Yes, it is as you say” (v2).
The charge against Christ was that He claimed to be King. Remember Pilate wrote the charge and had it fastened to the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).
The soldiers gather round Jesus, and they put a purple robe on Him (v17). Don’t think of this as a newly died robe in bright purple. This would have been an old, worn out soldier’s tunic, rubbed in the dirt. Mark says it was purple. Matthew says it was scarlet. Its faded color could hardly be recognized.
A King must have a crown. So, someone twists together some thorny branches and places it on His head. And a King should have a scepter, so someone brings a stick. Matthew says that they put a staff in His hand (Matthew 27:29). Mark doesn’t mention that, but He does say “again and again they struck Him on the head with a staff and spit on him” (v19).
Putting these together, it seems likely that Christ refused to hold the stick. He refused to participate in the charade. They put the stick in His hand, but He will not hold it, so it keeps falling to the ground. Someone picks it up. If you won’t hold your scepter – here’s what we will do with it…
Physical and emotional abuse
It is painful for someone who loves Jesus to think about this caricature. He sits in a worn out and faded robe, crowned with thorns. While men fall on their knees bowing down in laughter. All this Christ endured for us.
Remember, we are learning today, how the sufferings of Jesus speak into our lives today. What has this got to do with us today?
There’s a word that we use today for what was happening here: Abuse. Christ was abused. The flogging lacerated his body. This mocking lacerated his heart.
Christ was abused physically and emotionally. A gang humiliates him. They stripped Him of all dignity. He was taunted and ridiculed – “You are nothing!”
There will be some folks here today who have ensured terrible abuse: physically and mentally. You have been told you are nothing. You have felt that you are nothing. Christ has been there. His sufferings speak right into your life in a way that nothing else ever can or will. He will walk with you. He will be your comfort, direction and strength.
When You Suffer
When you are bound, when you are falsely accused, when you suffer physical pain, and when you are made to feel like nothing, remember the sufferings of Jesus at the hands of His enemies. He has been there.
Come to Christ for comfort
Your Savior knows what you are going through. He has been tested in every way and yet he was without sin. He knows what it is like to be bound, to be falsely accused, to endure great pain, to be ridiculed and treated as nothing. Don’t turn away from Him in this. He is the person you must turn to in this! Come to Him as you are, in all your pain.
Follow Christ for direction
It isn’t every day that you are given to suffer. So, if you are suffering now, will you determine before God today that you will follow Christ in your suffering? Christ left us an example, that we should follow in His footsteps.
The New Testament tells us about a man named Stephen whose face shone like an angel in His suffering. It may be that the likeness of Christ will be seen in you more clearly as you walk with Him through suffering than at any other time in your life.
Trust Christ for strength
Christ suffered as no-one else has ever suffered. But He endured it. He came through it. It made Him the savior He is! And now this Jesus says to you, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” And you can say “Because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
 K. Schilder, Christ in His Suffering p.445.
© Colin S. Smith
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