Jesus suffered severely throughout His trials, torture, and crucifixion (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19). His suffering was physical: Isaiah 52:14 declares, “There were many who were appalled at Him—His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” His suffering was emotional: “All the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). His suffering was spiritual: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus had the weight of the sins of the entire world on Him (1 John 2:2). It was sin that caused Jesus to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus’ brutal physical suffering was augmented by His having to bear the guilt of our sins and die to pay our penalty (Romans 5:8).
Isaiah predicted Jesus’ suffering: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3, 5). This passage specifies the reason for Jesus’ suffering: “for our transgressions,” for our healing, and to bring us peace.
Jesus told His disciples that His suffering was certain: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22; cf. 17:25). Note the word must—He must suffer, and He must be killed. The suffering of Christ was God’s plan for the salvation of the world.
Psalm 22:14–18 details some of the suffering of the Messiah: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” In order for this and other prophecies to be fulfilled, Jesus had to suffer.
Why did Jesus have to suffer so badly? The principle of the innocent dying for the guilty was established in the garden of Eden: Adam and Eve received garments of animal skin to cover their shame (Genesis 3:21)—thus, blood was shed in Eden. Later, this principle was set in the Mosaic Law: “It is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Hebrews 9:22). Jesus had to suffer because suffering is part of sacrifice, and Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus’ physical torture was part of the payment required for our sins. We are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).
Jesus’ suffering on the cross showed the devastating nature of sin, the wrath of God, the cruelty of humanity, and the hatred of Satan. At Calvary, mankind was allowed to do his worst to the Son of Man as He became the Redeemer of mankind. Satan may have thought he had won a great victory, but it was through the cross that the Son of God triumphed over Satan, sin, and death. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31; cf. Colossians 2:15).
Jesus suffered and died in order to secure salvation for all who would believe. The night of His arrest, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He committed His all to the task: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). The cup of suffering was not taken from Christ; He drank it all for us. There was no other way for us to be saved.