Years ago, the movie The Passion of the Christ went to great lengths to show us the physical pain that Jesus endured. Interestingly, that part of Jesus’ suffering is not the focus of the gospels. Take for instance the portion of Luke that we’ll read together this Sunday: (22:31-62)
• Jesus’ disciples cannot stay awake with him to pray in Gethsemane.
• Jesus is in agony as he prays in the garden of Gethsemane-his sweat becoming like great drops of blood.
• Jesus is betrayed by Judas.
• Jesus confronts a mob that has come to arrest him.
• Jesus is denied three times by Peter.
What we are starting to see is the rejection of Jesus. His disciples abandon him. His closest friends betray him. Even God is starting to turn away- an act made complete as Jesus cries out from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Suffering this abandonment is the focus of the gospel writers. Jesus, fulfilling his purpose as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, must be fully rejected in order to provide atonement for our sins. Because of our sin, we are the ones who deserve to be rejected, abandoned, and forsaken. Because he never sinned, he does not deserve any of it, but as Jesus said, “this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’” (22:37)
Jesus’ suffering is physical, but even more than that, he suffers the pain of rejection and abandonment. He does it in our place, so we never have to.
Good News? You bet. Because Jesus was abandoned by God, you NEVER will be.