When we think of Christ’s prolonged suffering and excruciating painful death, we might perhaps ask ourselves, could there have been a better or easier way to accomplish the purpose and end result of His First Coming?
Why did He become a Man to die? We know that God the Father created everything—including man—through Jesus Christ. As man’s Creator, Christ’s life was of more value than the sum of the entire creation. He died by shedding His blood, and there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. The penalty for our sins is death, and Christ died to pay our penalty on our behalf. His death was necessary for the remission and forgiveness of our sins, with man’s potential of inheriting salvation and eternal life in the very Family and Kingdom of God.
But why not choose a fast and nearly painless death, such as beheading in the manner in which John the Baptist was killed? Christ would still have died for the sins of mankind; He would still have shed His blood for us–but that was not what God and Christ had decided before the world began. And there are reasons for that decision—in fact, no other way would have been possible (compare Matthew 26:36-42).
Focusing on the events after the last Passover that Christ observed with His disciples, we find that Judas betrayed Him to His captors in the Garden of Gethsemane with a kiss; that all His disciples forsook Him and that Peter betrayed Him three times; that He was illegally “interrogated” all night; that He was brought before Pilate, Herod, and again Pilate for further “questioning” during the day; that He was brutally beaten by the Romans—apparently three times—with no limitations on the amount of stripes which He received; that He was spit on, mocked, ridiculed (with a crown of thorns placed on His head, inflicting further pain and wounds); that the Romans beat him on the head with a reed; and that He was finally sentenced to death by crucifixion, after He had been repeatedly declared to be innocent by Pilate and Herod, and while Pilate instead released a convicted murderer in His place.
By the time He was nailed to the stake at the place called Golgatha (the Place of a Skull), together with two convicted robbers, He had been without sleep for some 30 hours. He had lost blood by the beatings and scourging which all by themselves could have caused the death of a person. He was indeed greatly weakened because Simon of Cyrene had to assist Him in carrying His stake to the place of crucifixion, where His hands and feet were pierced through with nails and where He endured terrible agonies and thirst on the stake for another three hours, being continuously blasphemed and ridiculed by bystanders, before dying at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when a soldier murdered Him by piercing His side with a spear.
Why did God the Father and Jesus Christ allow this kind of inhumane and cruel “punishment” to be executed against the very Son of God? And why did they allow the kind of suffering that Christ endured throughout His human life—and especially during the hours following the Passover? Christ knew all that would happen, and He told His disciples that He had desired to eat the Passover with them before He would suffer.
One answer is, of course, that God the Father and Jesus Christ chose this manner of suffering and death of the very Son of God so that they could never be accused of taking the easy way out. But there is much more to the answer.
We read in 1 Peter 2:24 that Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes [we] were healed.” (Compare Isaiah 53:2-5; Matthew 8:16-17). While the shedding of His blood made possible the forgiveness and redemption of our sins, His numerous wounds, stripes and beatings made possible the healing of our physical deformities and sicknesses.
We also read that Christ learned obedience by all the things that He suffered. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh to overcome sin in the flesh. He never sinned once—but He had to experience in His flesh what it took to be always obedient to God, even in times of excruciating pain and prolonged suffering.
We read in 1 Peter 2:21-23 that Christ “suffered for us, leaving us an example that [we] should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…”
Let us truly appreciate what Christ went through on our behalf. It was not a light matter to pave the way for our spiritual forgiveness and physical healing, and God expects of us to live worthy of our calling by following Christ’s sinless example in everything—especially in times of temptation, trial, sickness and severe suffering.