The Sufferings of Christ
Why was Jesus scourged and mocked before the cross?
Recently I was asked why Jesus had to suffer so much before the cross. My friend’s question went like this: “You love your boys deeply. The thought of them dying is inconceivable. But why did Jesus go through the Brutal beatings beyond recognition? It is one thing for one of your sons to die for someone else, but the beatings are useless unless there was a specific purpose. What was that purpose?” This was my response.
There are a number of different directions we could go when thinking about the purpose of His sufferings and mockery leading to His vicarious death. Here are a couple.
There is first the narrative purpose, that is, viewing His sufferings in light of the story. In the gospel accounts the death of Jesus is firstly not a moment of rejoicing, it is the lowest point, the moment when it looks like all of His enemies have won. The gospel accounts pass over quite quickly the mention of ‘scourging’ and choose rather to focus on the mockery of our Lord by the soldiers, religious leaders, crowd and criminals. It continues all the way until he breathes his last on the cross. In the flow of the story all of this is the final attack of His enemies and the bleak appearance of their victory. The good news does not arrive until the resurrection. Then it is seen that all of their hate, mockery, and attacks could not overcome Him. He rather overcomes them rising from the grave.
For us looking back at this moment it is easy to ask why did God let Jesus suffer so much but perhaps the real question is, why did Jesus let himself be mocked and attacked in this way. Yet by allowing it He has taken all that the world, sin, death, and the devil could throw at Him and overcome it. Therefore if we think of purpose, his resurrection is not simply the overcoming of death, it is the overcoming of hate, the overcoming of mockery, the overcoming of injustice, and positively the vindication of the righteous sufferer!
There is also the prophetic purpose. Genesis 3 will tell us that the son of the woman will be bruised by the serpent. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, all types of Christs, were rejected by their brothers and caused to suffer on that account. Isaac was mocked, Jacob was threatened with death, and Joseph was thrown down into the darkness of Egypt. Yet all of this led to their vindication and blessing while their persecutors were either cast out (Ishmael) or led to bow the knee (Joseph’s brothers). Moses had to be first rejected by his brothers before he could redeem Israel out of Egypt. David was anointed by Samuel yet mocked by his brothers and hunted by the false king. Yet David’s humiliation was turned into his glory. God exalted Him and made Him king over all Israel.
Thinking about this, the rejection, mockery, and sufferings of Jesus leading to the cross inform us as to who He is. He is the promised seed, He is the new Isaac, the greater Jacob, the true Joseph rising from the grave to rule over all things. He is a new Moses redeeming His people, the true heir of David whose kingdom will have no end… etc. In the sufferings of Jesus therefore the story of the whole Bible reaches it’s climax and fulfillment.
There is also the ethical purpose. Jesus suffered at the hands of wicked men for their good. He did not only die for them but he endured them, suffered for them, and made it into a source of blessing for them and the world. Paul is able to see all of his trials later as connected to the sufferings of Christ (Col 1:24) for he is suffering for the good of the church. It is here that the sufferings of Christ are so powerful in the lives of believers. They teach us how to endure our trials. Not by seeking to escape them, but by trusting God through them, and seeking to use them for the blessing of others. They ask us ‘will we suffer willingly for the good of the church, or even evil men?’ Then something amazing happens. As we suffer in the way Christ did His sufferings become real to us and we are drawn ever closer to Christ. We have a brother. We are never alone in any trial. He is with us. The joy of His salvation and vindication by God become our joy and vindication.