He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Growing up in the competitive world of athletics and later inside martial arts dojos (schools), I became quite familiar with the saying, “No pain, no gain!” The phrase simply means that training for athletic performance is often difficult and painful, but without that pain, we will never make any significant improvement (gain). The concept makes sense, and it is indeed true. However, when it comes to our salvation, it is only through His pain that we receive our gain. But “His pain” might not actually be the pain you are most likely to think about.
The 2004 movie The Passion of The Christ depicted in graphic, moment-by-moment detail the gruesome, agonizing nature of the crucifixion of Jesus: the beatings, the scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nine-inch nails. It was a terrible way to die, the most dreadful form of torture devised by the sinful mind of man at that time. We get our English word excruciating from the Latin cruciare—to crucify. Victims of crucifixion might hang on the cross for days before succumbing to asphyxiation. And the scourging that preceded crucifixion was so brutal that some died without ever hanging on the cross.
But has it ever struck you as odd that when you read the gospel accounts, there is very little said about the physical pain our Lord endured? The four gospel writers record our Lord’s ordeal rather matter-of-factly:
When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Matthew 27:35)
When they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:20)
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. (Luke 23:33)
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes. (John 19:23)
I believe there are two primary reasons for the lack of details regarding the physical pain Jesus suffered. First, there were thousands of unfortunates who endured the agony of the crucifixion process during the first century. Remember, Jesus was crucified between two criminals who were suffering similar physical pain. Second, and most importantly, the most painful part of the crucifixion experience for Jesus was not physical, as terrible as that must have been. No, Jesus’ worst suffering was spiritual, which He expressed by His despairing cry, quoting Psalm 22 while He hung on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Jesus uttered these words during the three hours of darkness that covered the land, a picture of the judgment and cosmic abandonment Jesus endured while paying the penalty for our sin. Here is an unimaginable agony that no one has ever experienced: the pain of enduring the wrath of God the Father poured out on God the Son as punishment for the penalty of the sins of all those men, women, and children who have ever and will ever put their trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life.
That was the greatest pain . . . the greatest suffering . . . the greatest torture . . . and it was all for our gain. Remember, Jesus endured all this pain and punishment and terror so that you and I will never have to. His pain . . . is our gain. Let that truth set you free to be all God is calling you to be.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!