When you join the military you don’t know what to expect. You may have an idea but you have no experiences to base understanding. Then you get to boot camp or, in my case, Aviation Officer’s Candidate School. You “know” it is going to be tough but you don’t really “know” how tough. We started with 80+ candidates and graduated 24. Those aren’t the best odds. One thing you learn really quick is “if you want it bad enough you can do it.” There always seems to be a pain or performance limit that you can push through to the next level. When I was there I was a new creation but was not living in His power. Of course God was helping me through the whole thing but it was very much in my own effort, or at least that is what I thought. Later I learned about other military men and how they went to the next level. Some of the stories of POWs will break your heart and inspire you at the same time. As a side note almost all of those POWs credit Jesus with their ability to survive and persist in their convictions. In that exposure and experience I can see that God has made humans with this amazing ability to go beyond what they think they can handle and press through to where they surprise even themselves. So I see verses like this and question what does it mean when Jesus says “suffer.”
Matt 16:21 [ Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection ] From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (ESV)
I don’t believe it was enduring a beating or even dying in and of itself. I guarantee that any of you could take a beating and even die for someone you loved so much. Think of your children or spouse or parents or many others. Your body would kick into a mode that the pain from the beating stops. The act of dying would actually be a relief after such a beating. Hear me…I am not minimizing what was done to Jesus in any way. So please hear me. I believe what set Jesus apart from all of us (besides Him being fully God) is He did it willingly for every person on the planet and still loved them in the process. These people (and us) hated Him! Still He loved them and forgave them and us. Could you love someone who beat you who and hated you and your family and wanted nothing for you other than see your pain?!?!? Come on, be honest. The most amazing thing is He did it as a man ALONE on the cross. You know this verse:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The word forsaken is egkataleipō which means to abandon! When Jesus became our sin God turned away from Him, yes even the Holy Spirit. So imagine Jesus, His whole life filled with the Holy Spirit to guide Him and comfort Him. Imagine always being in the will of the Father and being led by Him in all things. Now imagine being totally alone at the worst possible moment. I believe this is what Jesus was struggling with in the garden just prior. This was His suffering, surrender over self.
Matt 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (ESV)
I believe Jesus’ appeal to the sleepy disciples was the very struggle inside of him. The Bible says that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and men. I believe this was Jesus learning to deny self and rely on the Holy Spirit in each situation. Take one more look at this one:
Phil 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross(ESV)
God wanted to show us what it looks like when He becomes a man. He wanted to show us how to surrender to Him and live from Him. I believe Jesus had that final struggle (suffering) in the garden knowing that He would hang on a cross alone and bare all our sin, suffer the wrath (turning away) of God to satisfy the judicial requirements and die alone. In all of that, His love for us, His God love for us, His passion for us was to suffer all that and still love us. Can you see that is the ultimate sacrifice, to die for those who hate you and still love them, really love them? Any of us in our self would curse our tormentors.
Here is the best part. That same Jesus is in us in Spirit. He did it so we don’t have too. We have His humility, the ultimate humility, the “obedient unto death” humility in us. Not only that but “as He is so are we in this world (1 John 4:17)” Not only that but we have the Holy Spirit who will never leave us. We have the Spirit of God who will never leave us or forsake us. We cannot be alone, ever!!! We will never be abandoned because Jesus was! Imagine hanging on the that cross and saying “forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.” The Holy Spirit of that glorified, exalted man choses to live in you. That is amazing, so much so that words don’t capture it. God is so good.