Family Bible Study lesson for April 4: Suffering Savior : Friday, March 19, 2004
March 18 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for April 4: Suffering Savior : Friday, March 19, 2004
Friday, March 19, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for April 4: Suffering Savior

By Vic Ramsey
Matthew 27:27-31, 35-37, 50-51; 1 John 4:7-10

A seminary student visited his professor early in the term to clear up some confusion about the class or its assignments. The student concluded his visit with the words, "Professor, I love you."

The professor replied, "Then tell me where I hurt."

This morning's lesson calls on us to consider the relationship between suffering and love. We are challenged to consider that suffering can be redemptive.

Jesus Suffered for Us

Matthew 27:27-31

We moderns suffer from the illusion that people who lived in biblical times weren't really like us. We just don't believe that their hopes and dreams, their loves and hates, their joys and sorrows were as real, full and human as our own.

As I write this commentary, believers and non-believers alike are flocking to theaters to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." Clearly, the film has been a powerful experience for many people, driving home the reality of Jesus' suffering.

Matthew records that, after Jesus was whipped, Pilate's soldiers took Him "into the Praetorium" and made fun of Him. The praetorium is the technical name for the governor's residence; a place where a garrison of soldiers would be quartered. This scene probably took place in a courtyard where "the whole company" could watch.

The mockery centered on Jesus' "crime," the allegation that He claimed to be the "king of the Jews," and thus, a rival to Caesar. The scarlet robe, the crown of thorns and the reed serving as a scepter are all macabre tokens of supposed royalty.

Jesus Died for Us

Matthew 27:35-37, 50-51

Matthew records the crucifixion almost in passing: "After crucifying Him..." Matthew did not need to linger over the details of crucifixion; he lived in an age and in a place where those details were common knowledge.

We need to remember that crucifixion wasn't invented just for Jesus, and that nothing in Scripture teaches that Jesus' crucifixion was different from the thousands of other crucifixions the Romans carried out. That said, we also need to know that crucifixion was a particularly brutal and humiliating form of execution, intended not only to punish the criminal, but also to deter spectators from following in his footsteps. It was a method of punishment and propaganda.

To that end, the soldiers posted a sign, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." The message to spectators would be plain: "see what happens to people who stand up to Caesar."

The ordeal ends with Jesus giving a loud shout and yielding His spirit to His Father. When He does, it seems as if all creation convulses. Most notably, the temple curtain is torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying that the barrier between God and man has been breached at God's initiative.

Jesus Provides Life for Us

1 John 4:7-10

John argues persuasively that Jesus' suffering and death was not a random tragedy, but a divinely appointed act of sacrificial love. Suffering serves a greater purpose: to bring man back into the loving fellowship of God.

God is love, and His love is revealed in His sending Jesus, that we might live through Him. The word "propitiation" comes from the Old Testament sacrificial system, and has a root meaning of "expunge" or "cover." In Christ, our sin is covered, washed away.

But forgiveness is painful, even for us. How hard it is for us to forgive someone who has truly sinned against us! At the cross, we come to grips with the pain that God endured to forgive us. Mercy is precious; truly, we are bought with a price.

Those who accept this forgiveness will demonstrate the same love that purchased our redemption. "Let us love one another," John said. John calls on us to love others, especially our brothers and sisters in the faith, and this, in spite of the ways they may sin against us. Such love, modeled after Christ, is not easy, but it is the only proof that our faith in Christ is real.

John's instruction is a reminder that the Christian life can never be lived in isolation: love requires the presence of others. That's a point we'll linger on in a couple of weeks.
3/18/2004 11:00:00 PM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

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