Our forgiveness of sins was bought through the death of Jesus Christ. As God and the only perfect man, His death paid for our sin. He had to die for us. But why did He have to suffer so much before He died?
Why did Jesus have to suffer so badly? What is the reason for Jesus' suffering?
The Bible is fairly descriptive about Jesus' suffering. The abuse began in John 18 after He answered the high priest's question, pointing out that He did everything openly. One of the officers nearby struck Jesus for what he thought was a disrespectful answer. Pilate then interviewed Him. Finding nothing that he could charge against Jesus legally, he offered to the Jewish authorities to let Him go. They refused and insisted Jesus be crucified.
The soldiers were given free rein. They twisted a crown from a vine with very long, sharp thorns and put it on Jesus' head. They flogged Him viciously. They hit Him repeatedly. Jesus was then made to carry the heavy cross-beam of the cross to the hill of Golgotha where the soldiers nailed His hands and feet. For the next several hours, He experienced such pain that He died long before what was standard for crucifixion victims.
There is speculation as to how the suffering came about. Pilate didn't want to crucify Jesus. Jesus was innocent but Pilate had to make a show that he was following the will of the Jewish leadership or risk a rebellion. Some believe Pilate had Jesus tortured in hopes that it would satisfy the Jews and they would back down from their request to kill Jesus. It didn't happen, obviously, and there is nothing in the Bible that directly states this was Pilate's intent. But it did have one unexpected benefit; the loss of blood and general agony caused by the scourging left Jesus so weak that He died on the cross within hours, instead of either hanging there for days or forcing the guards to break His legs as they did the thieves'.
We do know for certain that the torture Jesus suffered fulfilled Old Testament prophecy:
As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind…
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me on the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
They have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
But since God is the Author of time, He could have arranged for a different prophecy. Jesus needed to fulfill prophecy to illustrate that He is the Son of God, but that doesn't explain why the prophecy had to be so brutal.
The only Scripture that gives a hard and fast reason as to why Jesus had to suffer is Isaiah 53:10-12:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many
and makes intercession for the transgressors."
So, Jesus had to suffer because it was God's will. Not that Jesus' physical pain was necessary for salvation—"Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied" refers to Jesus' emotional pain when He was separated from God. But we can see what benefit it has on us.
The decades after Jesus' resurrection and ascension were brutal for the young church. Christians were stoned, torn apart by lions, and crucified. Legend has it that Peter was crucified upside-down. Every Roman Christian who faced martyrdom would have been able to understand that his Savior also experienced horrible physical pain. Knowing that Jesus willingly faced such anguish would have given them strength to undergo their own.
Jesus' physical pain also serves as a metaphor for His spiritual agony. It wasn't the nails or the strips of flesh torn from His back that caused Jesus to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). It was the fact that God couldn't bear to see all humanity's sin on Jesus' shoulders and so turned His face away. For the first and only time, Jesus was removed from the presence of His Father's love.
In our fallen state, we are unable to understand the full weight of being removed from God's presence—we are all born separated from God. What we can understand is torn flesh, thorns, and nails through hands and feet. If we can internalize that pain, we will get a small glimpse of what it really means to have God turn away from us. That insight will help us both appreciate Jesus' sacrifice more and urge us to share the gospel with friends and family who face that separation for eternity.
Finally, Jesus' torture teaches us what we are capable of. Fear, anger, duty, and greed came together in a perfect storm and brought sinful wrath down on an innocent man. We are all well able of acting the same—news stories prove it. Man is wicked. We do not seek God. Which means our connection to the Holy Spirit is not to be taken lightly, and neither is the forgiveness from sins that Jesus offers.
What is the passion of Christ?
What legal trials of Jesus led to His crucifixion?
Where does the Old Testament prophesy the coming of Christ?
What is the meaning of substitutionary atonement?
What is the relationship between God and time?
Truth about Jesus Christ