O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
How to View Christ's Sufferings
How to View Christ's Sufferings
Based on Luke 22 and 23
Preached on March 24, 2013
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, why do we do it? We just spent twenty minutes meditating on the greatest injustice and torture this world has ever known. But why? What is the point? What is the benefit in looking at such gruesome things, filling our mind with such horrible images? And in church, no less! It is not cheerful. Not exciting. One would never call it fun. In fact, it is difficult. Burdensome. Yes, even offensive. So why do we do it? [It depends what we see.]
We live in a world today where "getting-along" is more important than the truth. If the truth is offensive, then it must bow down to falsehood. The truth must give in. It must die. And perhaps that's what's so absolutely compelling about this Jesus and the shocking way in which He suffers. For it is so very human. It is something we can relate to, something we can cringe at. Something we can feel and touch. This man who says, "I am the truth" struggles to breath. He winces in pain. He bleeds. It is a real man who suffers these things. A human like me and you. Yes, we know He is the Son of God from eternity, but He suffers as a man. He gives Himself up to falsehood as a man. He dies because He is a man. And so, though we want to look away, we can't. We want to see what happens. We want to see what happens to this truth, this man.
But what do we see? What do we see when we look upon Christ and His sufferings? For there are many different ways to see His Passion, but only one that is beneficial. It can create all sorts of different reactions within us, although most of them are more harmful than good. But you know what I mean.
Seeing what happened to Jesus could make you angry. Furious at the injustice all those people brought upon Him. "Look at the way they treated Him! I would never have turned my back on that innocent man. I would never have betrayed Him. I hate that Judas guy." I remember feeling like this for years when I was younger, even thinking it was the right way to see things. But it is totally wrong. Totally self-righteous. All you can see are the faults in others. What they don't do, or what they do wrong. And it makes you angry. You even tell yourself, you should be angry. So you complain about all these wrongs to anyone who will listen. You want everyone to know the truth about who's to blame. If it's not Judas and the soldiers and the Jewish leaders at fault with our Lord, it's your boss, or your spouse, or your friend who's at fault with this or that. But anger is not supposed to be the lens by which you see suffering and injustice. Christ does not want you to become angry when you see Him suffer and die. He has not lost control. Nevertheless, "in anger" is one of the corrupted ways we see His suffering and death.
And here is another - "in pity." One might be inclined to weep for Jesus, like the women who followed Him through the streets. Oh, poor Jesus, this shouldn't have happened to Him. He did nothing wrong. What He needs is my pity. But Jesus rebuked these women, for their misplaced pity. He told them not to weep for Him, but to weep for themselves and for their children. Did they not see the real plight they were in? Did they not see Jesus suffering something He didn't deserve? What then would be the torment for those who did deserve it? As He said, "If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" Don't weep for Me. Weep for yourselves and for your children, for this is what you deserve. "In pity" is not the way to see Christ's suffering and death.
Then how are we see to Christ's suffering and death? What does God want us to see in Him? What is the true way to look upon Him? It starts with terror. Terror that strikes your heart. Terror that sinks into your conscience when you realize the severe wrath and determination God has towards sin. Sin is so vile, so evil to Him that He would not let His Only Son save sinners unless He paid the costly ransom for them. Justice must be served Son. Tell me, what happens to the sinner when the dear innocent child is struck this way? What are you to God, compared to His only Son? How terrifying is it that God's Son actually suffers at all? Let alone like this? Because of you, for Christ was not on that cross for any other reason.
You look upon Christ's sufferings rightly when you realize it was your fault. That you martyred Christ. Your sins. Your mistakes. This is how Peter preached his first sermon to the three thousand on the day of Pentecost. He showed them how to correctly look upon Christ saying, "You crucified Him." And when all three thousand heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Therefore, when you see the nails piercing through His hands, firmly believe it is your work, the unclean things your hands have done, that causes it. When you see the crown of thorns, believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts, the evil things that fill your mind, even your anger and your misplaced pity. And when you see the Lord of life give up His last breath? Believe it was your sinful nature that squeezed it from Him.
For the cross of Christ acts first as a mirror, showing you what you deserve for your sin, what your punishment should be. You should see yourself hanging on it. Yet where one thorn pierces Christ, ten thousand should more painfully pierce you for all eternity. And where one nail is driven though His hands and feet, ten thousand should be driven through you nailing you down forever, as will happen to those who let Christ's sufferings be lost on them.
For there is no benefit to Christ's sufferings unless you come to see who you are, unless you look upon them and are struck with terror and slain before yourself. For in the sufferings of Christ all mankind has been made equal and alike. We all die. For as Christ was horribly martyred in body and soul for our sins, we must all be martyred in our consciences by our sins. Our conscience must say "I deserve to die." Whatever part of us that might try to protest and say, "But you are a good person" that must suffocate and die. There should be nothing left to hold onto. Nothing else that could help you, for Christ was forsaken by all, even by God. As Peter said to the three thousand, "Repent."
For although God first wants you to look upon Christ's sufferings in terror, it is not the last thing He wants you to see. As Jesus said, "I am the first and the last." First, Christ's sufferings are absolutely terrifying, but ultimately they are eternal peace and rest and comfort. First, your conscience is killed, but ultimately it is washed clean. For just as sins flowed out of Christ and we became conscious of them, so we are called to pour them back upon Him and set our conscience free. This is the last and most important part. For your sins are not yours anymore. Christ has claimed them, carried them, owned them. They are His wounds and sufferings, and His blood is shed for them. Pour them back on Jesus! Throw them on the Lamb!
And so we see the indescribable mercy of God, that by His suffering and death Christ would make your sins abound, only to take them back upon Himself. That He would show you what you deserve, only to save you from it. That He would prove Himself just and be the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Behold His friendly heart, how full of love it is towards you, which constrained Him to bear the heavy load for you. You are forgiven. You are free.
See this in the sufferings of Christ. See that God does not want to be known chiefly by His power and wisdom, but by His goodness and love. See that He has made you stand in confidence with Him. See His sufferings as an example for your whole life. Should you face a day of sorrow or sickness, how insignificant is it compared with the thorns or nails of Christ. Should your pride attack you, think of your innocent Savior paraded bloody and naked through the streets. Should you envy after something, pray not my will but yours be done. Christ's sufferings move us away from being lazy, disgraceful servants who would lie in their beds while their Lord went to battle and death. As Hebrews says, "Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."
Jesus is your strength, not only in His resurrected glory, but in His suffering and death. He helps you fight the temptation to sin. Not just your outward actions, so you look good to those around you, but your whole life in Him. He arms you to fight against those sins that keep coming back to haunt you, those hidden ones you keep from everyone else. He works to keep your whole conscience clear. And seeing His suffering and death for you gives you the strength you need to love Him back.
So why do we do it? Why do we gaze upon something so gruesome? That we may be struck in terror, only to be lifted up in comfort. That we may see who we are and what we deserve, only to give it all back to Christ! Throw your sins on the Lamb! Pour them out upon Him, for He is strong enough to take them. In fact, it would be His pleasure. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr