Jesus – The Suffering God
Is God fair? This question was answered once and for all 2,000 years ago by Jesus. God came in human flesh and suffered the worst unfairness of history. Jesus didn’t enjoy peace, had no wealth or possessions, lived a rather short life full of sorrows, and was ignominiously murdered.
Some think God gives an automatic promise to make life fair for a good person. If so, it was a promise badly broken in the life of Jesus, the only sinless person in history.
Jesus, God in the flesh, was also the Suffering Servant. His coming had been prophesied hundreds of years earlier. The prophet Isaiah said the future Savior would be “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). He was to be the willing lamb led to the slaughter by his God. Isaiah wrote of Jesus: “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (verse 10). To what purpose? To pay for human sin and make salvation possible (verse 12).
Though fully God, Jesus also took on the same humanity as we have, in order to accomplish his saving grace (Hebrews 2:17). He also experienced the suffering and pain that humans do. Jesus confronted disappointment, felt pain, became hungry and tired, faced temptation and apprehension. Shortly before his betrayal, on his last night, Jesus told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34).
Jesus endured torture and finally hideous torment on the cross. People taunted and derided Jesus — “Save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:39-40). “He saved others…but he can’t save himself,” some mocked a suffering, dying Jesus (verse 42).
God was not hiding
From that time forward, no one could accuse God of not suffering as humans do, of not understanding. Jesus had suffered through the entire human experience. Think of it: God in the flesh shared our human pain. The suffering and death of Jesus once and for all put to rest the idea that life must be fair, or that God is unfair. No one could accuse God of hiding himself or not caring.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
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This article was written in 1992. Copyright Grace Communion International. All rights reserved.
In the Old Testament, some of God’s favorites suffered. In the New Testament, it was God himself, manifested in the flesh as Jesus, who suffered supreme injustices. He was spit on, beat up, nailed to a piece of wood, humiliated and lifted up for all to see, and then speared.
Jesus’ suffering and death exposed a world of gross and obscene unfairness. But the cross also made plain that God endured unfairness. Jesus was not exempt. God in Jesus came to share in the sufferings of the world and to free wretched humanity from the slavery of sin. In the process, he took on the worst the world could mete out — unjustly and unfairly.
When suffering becomes our lot, the question of God’s fairness will naturally come to mind. Is it fair that we must suffer? God has given us an answer to this question. He gave it through the life and death of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. May it give us faith and love in God in our darkest moments.