“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil. 3:10).
Grace and peace to the brethren, and greetings to those who languish in darkness and know not whither they go.
In our earnest zeal to know Jesus and to be like Him, we try to fashion ourselves in His image. We try to be honest in word and deed. We try to be forgiving. We try to be loving. And we stay in the Word as well as pray and fast more to draw closer to Him. We do all these things; and we do well to do these things, for they are pleasing to God.
But when we go through trials and afflictions, we sometimes get discouraged. We think that because we are working so hard to please God, it is unfair that we should suffer so. We neglect a crucial teaching: to truly know Jesus is to suffer, because Jesus also suffered.
By “suffer” I am not just talking about the Cross. Jesus suffered in many ways. The very fact that Paul uses the plural confirms that Jesus knew suffering on many levels.
Jesus was and is God. When He was born, He was called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” When Jesus was manifested in the flesh, He never stopped being God. Yet He was treated like a criminal, even by other criminals. Hebrews 12:3 says:
“For consider [Jesus] who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.”
Jesus, Who neither sinned, nor indeed could sin, was accused of sinning by sinful men.
Ask anyone who has been wrongfully accused of a crime and you will learn that it is one of the worst of experiences—especially when the testimony that convicted them came from the real perpetrator!
This is what happened to Jesus. Though innocent of any wrongdoing, He was constantly accused of doing wrong, and that by wrong doers. For an innocent man to be constantly accused of a crime is a form of suffering. It is emotional suffering.
And constantly is the operative word here. Most—I dare say all—people have experienced being falsely accused to a greater or lesser degree at some point in their lives. But Jesus endured false accusations until the very end of His life, as even when He was dying on the cross, one of the criminals who hung there with Him said
“If thou be Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23:39).
This was accusing Jesus of being a liar, because He said He was the Son of God. If you are not convinced of this, note that the other criminal said,
“Doest not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” (v. 40).
The Gospels testify that Jesus suffered emotional suffering in the form of false accusations His entire adult life.
Emotional suffering can take many forms. Have you ever told the truth and had everyone tell you that you were lying? Jesus endured this. Now it is bad enough when a person tells the truth about something which he cannot prove, but when he backs up his claim with proof, yet people continue to claim he is a liar, this can be unbearable.
This very thing happened to Jesus. He said that He was the Son of God: this was saying that He was in fact God, as the following dialogue clearly demonstrates:
“My father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
“I and my Father are one.
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.
“Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:30-33).
In case you missed that, Jesus said that God the Father gave the believers to Him. But then He says that no man is able to pluck them from His Father’s hand, not his own hand. Jesus was saying that His Father’s hand was His own hand. He was saying that He is God. And the people understood this very well.
Now, one may be able to understand their indignation if Jesus had gone around saying that He was the Son of God, but hadn’t done anything to suggest this were true. But by this point, Jesus had done many miracles, including giving sight to a man who had been born blind (John Chapter 9).
And to top it off, in the very next chapter of the book of John, as if in answer to their disbelief, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Yet what happened? I can show you better than I can tell you:
“Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him.
“But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:45-46).
“But some of them went their ways…” If these had believed that Jesus was the Son of God, they would have fallen at His feet and begged for mercy instead of running back to the Pharisees to snitch. These were likely the very ones who continued to falsely accuse Jesus.
How do you think it made Jesus feel to be God in the flesh and have sinful people continue to disbelieve even after He did things that only God could?
Understand that these people had no reason to doubt Jesus by this point. He had raised a man from the dead. True, Elijah had raised a child from the dead, but this child hadn’t been dead long, so it was possible for the people to say that the boy wasn’t really dead. Jesus had also raised a little girl from the dead. But like in Elijah’s case, the little girl had only just died, so it was possible to argue she was not really dead. But Lazarus had already been dead four days when Jesus raised Him:
“Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (11:39).
There was no doubt that Jesus was God. He was their Father. Yet they continued to reject Him.
“But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him” (12:37).
This was undoubtedly hurtful for Jesus. This was emotional suffering.
Let me put this in terms you can appreciate. For those of you who are parents, especially you mothers, how would you feel if your very children who you brought into this world—WITH PAIN—nursed, fed, clothed, anguished over when they were sick, worried yourself sick over when they were in trouble, and would have walked through Hell with gasoline underwear on for, denied that you loved them and even denied that you were really their parents? I can tell you that this would wound you deeply. I know what this feels like. Some parents would never recover from the grief. Some haven’t.
This is what they did to Jesus. Though He did everything short of create a human being right in front of their eyes to convince them that He is God, they continued to deny Him and called him a blasphemer. And this is what many of us do to Jesus today—even many who claim to be of the household of faith.
But not only did they falsely accuse Jesus and deny him, Saints, they also called Him crazy. They called the Creator of the universe crazy!
“Thou hast a devil” (John 7:20).
“Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (John 8:48).
They were saying that Jesus was possessed, which at that time meant one was crazy, as insanity was the principle way possession was manifested. Jesus went around curing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, healing the cripple, and raising the dead, yet the best compliment they could muster was to call Him crazy.
Moreover, not only was He rejected by the people, but His own family denied Him:
“For neither did His brethren believe in Him” (John 7:5).
Friends, it is bad enough when the world rejects you, but when your own family rejects you…Saints, I submit to you that this was the epitome of emotional suffering.
So you see, suffering was as much a part of Jesus’ life as were his piety, chastity, wisdom, love, honesty, mercy, grace, truthfulness, and miracles. We tend to forget the former and concentrate only on the latter. But as Paul wrote, to really know Jesus is to know “the fellowship of His sufferings.” Only when we have suffered emotionally on the behalf of Christ Jesus, can we even begin to imagine what it must have been like to walk in His shoes.
Scripture says that it is given to us on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. And as you have just seen, Jesus not only suffered physically, but emotionally as well. In fact, this type of suffering characterized His entire ministry.
This message will resonate with many of you reading this. Many of us have been disowned by family, rejected by friends, ostracized at work, shunned by neighbors, left by our spouses, and denied by our children. Many of us have lost jobs, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, friend friends, pets, mailmen, jewelry, money, property, and more, all for the cross of Christ. We should not be surprised: Jesus told us that this would happen:
“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall [these same people] cause to be put to death” (Luke 21:16).
If this sounds like you, be of good cheer: you are closer to Jesus than you think. For to know Jesus is not only to taste of His goodness, but also to suffer on His behalf.
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So, be encouraged and look up; for your redemption draweth nigh.
The Still Man