Christ’s suffering gives me an example to follow in my own suffering.
Everything Jesus did while He walked upon this earth was an example to us of how we are to conduct our own lives. Certainly we will never be able to do the miracles of healing and creating food for thousands to eat, but Jesus' example of how we are to treat others, and how we are to deal with those who would hurt us, lets us see that there is a better, more loving way to deal with these issues. In the life of a Christian, Jesus' commands and examples must be followed to the letter. Jesus didn't leave us any room for argument – if He said it, we do it.
1 Peter 2:21 tells us clearly that this is so – To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." The "you" in this verse are slaves. Peter is telling slaves that they are to obey their masters in everything they do. We are not to question those who have authority over us, even if that authority is being used abusively. Jesus didn't quarrel with those who were wrong in their thinking about spiritual and personal matters, He flat out told them where they were wrong, using words which had a strength and authority all their own. We as Christians are slaves to Christ. Just as slaves were owned by their masters, so we as Children of God are owned by our Master, Jesus Christ, who ransomed us with His shed blood on the cross.
Do you know which apostle more than the others claimed to be a slave to Jesus? In Philippians 1 and Titus 1, the apostle Paul claimed himself to be a slave to Christ because He believed that Jesus was the master of his life and that anything he did with that life must be spent obeying the call for which Jesus had redeemed him for. Can we do any different? If you have a calling on your life, and you know that it is in fact from God, then you must obey the calling, even at the cost of everything you hold dear. God will reward you for your obedience. Besides, if you don't follow the call, how many people will miss out on coming to Jesus for salvation because you didn't obey?
Just as Jesus went out at great cost to His life to proclaim the Gospel to the people, which ended in His death on the cross, we are to do the same. Remember, Jesus didn't just suffer on the cross -- He suffered every day of His ministry. He had no place to call home. He was always on the run from those who wanted Him dead long before the cross. He was despised by those He came to save, of whom included His own family. How many of us have or are suffering because our families don’t accept us for who we are? Jesus fully understands our sufferings, for He has lived it all. His example to us shows that we are not alone in our suffering. He even left us an example of what to do when we are being persecuted for His sake.
What was Jesus’ example to me?
What is the first thing we as humans want to do whenever someone hurts us in some way? It's a silly question I know, since we all know the answer. But the answer shows us one of the biggest failings we have as people of the world, and that is our lack of love for others. When we are hurt unjustly all we want to do is to hurt the one back that has hurt us. We want to "get even" as we call it. We reason that they should suffer even worse than we did because of their lack of love, respect, honor, etc… That's one reason why this world is in such sad shape; why we have so many wars and divorces and dysfunctional families and drug/alcohol use and adultery and sexual abuse/perversion. We want to hurt each other deeply, sometimes without ever realizing why we want to do so.
So, what do we do about it? Aside from forgiving the one who has hurt us, there must be a way to bring peace and reconciliation to these situations. What was Jesus' example to us in how to handle the conflicts in our lives that dare us to destroy everyone and everything we value and hold dear? Let's read 1 Peter 2:22-23: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled
their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." Let's take a closer look at each of Jesus' response found in this verse.
Jesus did not retaliate.
Sometimes one of the best things we could ever do in a tense situation is keep our mouths shut. We all know that one little slip of the tongue in anger could destroy any chance of the problem being solved in a peaceful manner. Physical abuse upon another person done in anger most times does not happen until we open our mouths and say something we should not have said, thereby angering ourselves even more than the situation itself. As Scripture says in James 3:4-6 -- And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself" (NLT). The tongue is more powerful than we realize. The tongue has started wars and ended marriages. It can even end your life.
Jesus kept His mouth shut. In His Godness, Jesus could have wiped out everyone around Him with a word. He could have made the smallest move with a finger and brought down legions of angels to defend Him. He could have caused lightening to strike on every individual that had wronged Him in their unbelief of who He was. But He didn't. He did not so much as utter a sound. He could have…oh, He could have… But He didn't. He let them say whatever they wanted to say. He wasn't digging their graves – they were doing that all by themselves because they refused to hold their tongues of fire. Satan had control of these questioners, these hypocrites, these imposters. God was not in them and would never be because of their ignorance. But God was in Jesus. And God had control over Jesus' tongue that day. When will we ever learn that our angry tongues belong to the devil? If God is to have any control in your life, giving Him your tongue is the best place to start.
Jesus did not threaten and entrusted God with His pain
By keeping His mouth shut, Jesus allowed the situation to play itself out in the time that God had allotted for it. There were things to be done and words to say before He went to the cross. If they had been done and said before their time, then it meant that God wasn't in control of the situation. But because Jesus knew that His Father was in control, He could stand there and let God have His way, because He knew that God's way was the best way to redeem us from Satan. Jesus also knew that God was His vindicator – "Don’t take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God’s anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, “I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19/ GW). As much as God loves us, He is also holy. If you are not saved, you are not holy in God's eyes. Find salvation alone in Jesus Christ and you will find peace and holiness with God. If you do not find salvation in Christ, then you are opening the door for God to take revenge on you for not accepting His love and His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not need to threaten those who were mocking Him because He knew that God would take care of them at the proper time in the future. I would rather stand redeemed before the throne of God and see His great love for me and the smile that He can't wait for me to see, then to stand before Him condemned to face His wrath only to be separated from Him for all eternity. I pray that is your position, too.
Jesus silently walked away
In Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus read to those in the synagogue, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’S favor has come… (NLT)) When He was done, He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). And what was the response of the people? We find the answer in Luke 4:28-30 – "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."
Who was this man to proclaim Himself the Messiah? How dare He blaspheme the name of God by saying that God had sent Him, a man, to do things that only God can do! As the verse says, they were furious! So mad they wanted to kill Him by sailing Him off a cliff. Have you ever gotten so mad that you could cause another injury? I confess that I have in the past. I've punched a few walls in my day, a couple of times I even bloodied my knuckles. Did I hit the other person? No, but I wanted to. Afterwards, I even wondered how I ever got so mad, and felt the evil dripping off of me. Again, that's the problem with our tongues. Sometimes it's someone else's tongue that starts the fire. Here, in this situation, Jesus is being persecuted for telling the truth.
How do you think Jesus felt when people either didn't believe Him, or were prejudiced against Him with full hatred and contempt? I'm sure even Jesus felt like throwing up from the hate that spilled off of their mouths. I'm sure that He cried for the souls of those in the crowd who would never come to accept Him as Messiah.
Just today, I had a similar situation that I have never faced in my entire 52 years of life. I have felt the hatred and contempt from a Jewish co-worker about her feelings toward Jesus being the Messiah. She was talking about a Bar Mitzvah she is to attend this weekend. She knows that I am a Christian, but it did not stop her from showing her contempt of Christianity. She said that certain family members were not allowed to come to the party because they had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and were now ostracized from the family because of their decision. She asked me if there were any of "those people" (Messianic Jews) at the church that I attend, and I told here there were a few. And though she wasn't outright condemning me for being one of "those people", I could feel the evil of her words. I had never heard her talk like this before. I never knew this hatred was inside her. It was like I was talking to a different person I hadn't know for two years.
When I got back to my office all I wanted to do was get sick and cry. I felt dirty, but not ashamed. I wanted to vomit because I knew that she may just die without ever accepting Jesus due to her prejudice of anything Christian. I wanted to cry because I could now see her through the eyes of Jesus, and could see that she would never accept Jesus as her Messiah if she didn't open her eyes and ears to the truth. I had never known that she was prejudiced towards anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. I will pray for her eternal soul. But I believe that I know how Jesus felt that day in the crowd, as He walked passed the people and went to a place where He knew others had ears to hear. I stood there silently and listened. I wanted to tell her the truth, but the Spirit would not let me. He told me that she would not listen no matter what I said.
Just like Jesus, we too want to tell certain people about His love and forgiveness, but know that they won't listen. Just as Jesus did, we, too, must walk away from a bad situation, not because of what the other person has done, but because of what we might do. And that is the topic of the next section.
My suffering for Christ shows Him that I choose to stop sinning.
1 Peter 4:1-2 – "So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ,
you have decided to stop sinning. And you won’t spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God (NLT).
Did I suffer for Jesus when the conversation with my co-worker was finished? Yes, I did: physically, mentally and relationally. Physically because of the evil words being poured out into my ears; mentally because of the anguish I felt over her darkened soul filled with hate and prejudice; and relationally because our relationship has now changed and cannot be as open as it once was, since I can't talk about Jesus in her presence without fear of rebuke. Because I now see her as Jesus sees her I feel her lostness and long for her to come to know Jesus as Messiah. I've never been hated before, even indirectly. Still, I will never know completely how Jesus feels every time He looks into the eyes of someone who absolutely hates Him. Jesus suffers still, even to this day, two thousand years later.
How many of us have truly suffered for Jesus? Unfortunately, not as many of us as Jesus would like, I'm sure. As the Scripture above says, we have to be willing to suffer for Jesus. We have to be willing to follow His example. If we spend our time telling the Gospel to those who need to hear it, then we won't have anytime left for sinning. If all of our thoughts and energies are spent in telling others how much Jesus has changed our lives, then the life of Christ with pervade our entire beings, leaving no room for the desires of the world. Just like you can't walk in two directions at once, neither can you think of Jesus and sin at the same time. Study your Bible and let the words fill you to the point where the sin you want to do gets washed away in the truth of the Word of God. Let the Word become your Master and let sin become a slave to you instead of you becoming a slave to it. I am not all there yet, but I am on my way. As the articles that I write show, I am more anxious to do the will of God more than I am to do the will of Satan. He had his day, now it's God's turn. How about you?