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Jesus, the Model Sufferer

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink
the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11)

OK… raise your hand if you
like pain… anyone?

Who enjoys suffering… anyone?

It’s fair to say that human beings are averse to suffering. The moment a headache or sore muscle begins to bother… there is a good chance we reach for aspirin, ibuprofen, or some other pain killer.

I sometimes wonder if we come close to concluding that ‘all pain and suffering is contrary to God’s will for me.’ However, such a sentiment—call it the ‘wine and roses sentiment’—is simply wrong. God never promised us that life THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN would be all joy without tribulation (see John 16:33; Acts 14:22).

In fact, God allows adversity and even pain to come our way that we may learn to cling more closely to Christ. That was the case with the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), who suffered many things as a servant of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). The Lord delivered him through them all.

In His Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus went so far as to say that the Christian is blessed if he is persecuted and reviled for His name’s sake (Matthew 5:10-12). The apostle Peter wrote something equally striking when, by divine inspiration, he said: “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…” (1 Peter 2:19-21).

We can understand why Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus in the early morning hours of Good Friday. He cared about Jesus and didn’t want Him to be arrested or hurt—even if his defense of Jesus was shortsighted and futile. Peter’s thinking wasn’t in tune with God’s will (see Matthew 16:22-23), and he probably had some wrong ideas about what the Messiah was supposed to accomplish.

Following the Father’s Plan

But Jesus’s thinking was always in sync with the Father’s will. Jesus as the Son of God didn’t come down from heaven to return a largely wayward nation to national prominence and to a new golden age (that would be too small a thing indeed). Rather, He came to deliver humankind from sin, death, and Satan. In order to accomplish this, He had to follow the Father’s plan… perfectly!

When the Father’s plan required Jesus’s suffering… He was completely willing.

At the start of His ministry Jesus suffered in the wilderness when He fasted for forty days (a month and a half without regular food would be more than painful for both body and mind)!

Jesus is certainly the Model Sufferer in that He sought God’s will first, even though it meant pain and suffering.

In this respect we, according to our new natures, are also willing to suffer. Moreover, He Himself will provide us the will and the strength to seek God’s will first, not being overly concerned if He sends temporary and endurable worldly loss, or even pain or suffering.

The Lord Jesus is MORE THAN A MODEL; He is the only one whose suffering and death could atone for our sins and remove our guilt. He alone exhibited perfect love in laying down His life for us.

May He grant us grace that we reflect (imperfectly this side of heaven) His love. Be assured we won’t suffer in the same way as He did (that is, for human sin); and certainly, neither will our suffering achieve the same purpose (the world’s redemption)!


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“Portraits of Christ” in John’s Gospel:

Ch. 1 The Son of God

Ch. 2 The Son of Man

Ch. 3 The Divine Teacher

Ch. 4 The Soul-Winner

Ch. 5 The Great Physician

Ch. 6 The Bread of Life

Ch. 7 The Water of Life

Ch. 8 The Defender of the Weak

Ch. 9 The Light of the World

Ch. 10 The Good Shepherd

Ch. 11 The Prince of Life

Ch. 12 The King

Ch. 13 The Servant

Ch. 14 The Consoler

Ch. 15 The True Vine

Ch. 16 The Giver of the Holy Spirit

Ch. 17 The Great Intercessor

Ch. 18 The Model Sufferer

Ch. 19 The Uplifted Savior

Ch. 20 The Conqueror of Death

Ch.21 The Restorer of the Penitent