Famous men throughout history have had titles that they are associated with, but few as well known as this particular ‘name’ or ‘title’ of Jesus. This is because so much of Jesus’ earthly life was highlighted by sorrows of many kinds. In comparison to Abraham Lincoln, for example, whose biography dedicated just 25 pages out of 5,000 to his very famous death, large parts of the gospels concentrate on the final week of Jesus’ life. One third of Matthew and Mark, a quarter of Luke and a half of John’s gospel are taken up with Jesus’ last traumatic and sorrowful week. This amount of space devoted to Christ’s suffering and death is disproportionate to the rest of His life; there is no mention of His childhood or youth (save being left behind at the temple), nothing of His teens and nothing of His twenties either. We are only left to speculate. But when it comes to that last week we have a daily update, a full graphic account of every painful experience. Is it any wonder He is known as the ‘man of sorrows’?
God becoming man is incredible enough, but God suffering so much pain and anguish is almost beyond comprehension. It is a subject so amazing it would take an eternity to try and comprehend. His physical suffering went almost beyond human endurance, but it wasn’t just the physical pain we should consider. Many people have written of the graphic horrors of crucifixion and I don’t propose to repeat them here. But as if that were not enough, He had many more reasons to be sorrowful:
- Jesus more than likely lost His earthly father before He was thirty. Joseph is not mentioned at all during Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had quite a number of brothers and sisters so when Joseph died (or left) Jesus, being the eldest, took on the responsibility of providing for the family and providing the emotional support needed by His mother, all the time Himself grieving at the loss of His father.
- He was not accepted by the religious leaders, the very people who should have been waiting for His coming. They missed completely who He was and instead hounded Him wherever He went, constantly watching, continuously trying to find fault.
- He felt the fate of lost sinners, those who were clearly told the truth but refused to listen and believe. We can see this in the account of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 who went away sorrowful. Jesus was more sorrowful because He knew what the man’s fate would ultimately be.
- He knew what was going to happen to Him a long time in advance. He had to live with the full horror of this fact on a daily basis, continuously casting a shadow over Him.
- He was frequently misunderstood by the people and His very dull disciples. He had to repeat himself again and again and appeared quite frustrated on occasions.
- He felt the pain of His friends when Lazarus died. One of the most poignant verses in the bible is the simple phrase ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35).
- The bible describes Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as being in anguish and overwhelmed with sorrow as He faced up to the full enormity of what was about to happen, asking the father if there was any another way possible.
- He was abandoned by His best friends who had been with Him for 3 years sharing life together in the deepest way. The only one left was John but even he looked on from a distance, unable to help.
- But perhaps the most terrifyingly sad time was on the cross, when the father turned his face from Him as He bore the full weight of every vile and disgusting sin that has ever been committed. He had always had the father’s presence, always enjoyed the father’s love and affection, until now. Eternity is a concept we are unable to grasp. The agony of eternal unity broken, excruciatingly and intolerably alone, Jesus hung on that cross; broken, despised and humiliated; abandoned and alone.
He was beset on both sides. As fully man He experienced every pain and every emotion, just as we do. As fully God in a fallen world He felt the full horror of sin surrounding Him on a daily basis.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
I want to end this blog on a positive note though, so let’s consider that the sorrow that Jesus went through was for a purpose. It was so that we could have a relationship with our heavenly father. He loved us that much that He considered all that sorrow to be worth it. Consider that you can please Him and make Him smile by living a life of obedience to Him; by every right choice you make on a daily basis and for every person you tell about Him. Let’s go into this week trying to make His smile as broad as possible!