Even before the cross, pay attention to the suffering of Jesus

Jesus tempted in the desert.

Jesus tempted in the desert.

This last Sunday I preached on the topic of suffering, seeking to bring our attention to this simple point: We have a God who truly knows suffering himself.

This week we read the first half of Matthew and I’d ask that you pay close attention to the experiences of Jesus. What does he go through? What troubles does he face? What luxuries does he have? How is he tempted? What is he going through in order to accomplish his great work?

Jesus is the one who walked in our footsteps. Truly he walked the path that we should have walked–the path we deserved, the path up to the cross. Jesus came to earth and experienced all that we do and he did so in order to take our place. We now can know that our God is compassionate and he is not unaffected by suffering. God knows suffering in ways we can never understand and he did it all so we would not be left alone. Into this dark world Jesus brought us light and gives us hope.

Moses and Christ, Hebrews 11

Throughout the book of Hebrews Jesus Christ is being linked to the practices and objects of the Old Testament. For example, Christ is the veil, he is the sacrifice, and he is priest. The ways of the old covenant find their improvement in Jesus Christ and the new covenant that he has instituted.

In chapter 11 as we read about the role of faith in the people of God, going all the way back to Abel, we read one line about Moses that continues to strengthen the link of Christ to the Old Testament. Verse 26 says:

[Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

It doesn’t say that Moses considered the reproach of God, but rather the reproach of Christ as a greater treasure than all that could be found in Egypt. Verse 25 tells us how Moses chose to be mistreated with God’s people rather enjoy the sinful spoils of Pharaoh’s courts. In so doing he willingly took on scorn and suffering–the reproach of others, and did so, as the NIV says in its translation, “for the sake of Christ.”

Moses did not know the name of Jesus Christ, but he put his hope in God, and that hope is Christ. Jesus is Messiah, the one in whom all the hope of Israel was wrapped. Moses trusted the promises of God, looking ahead to the reward, knowing it to be better than any fleeting treasure or pleasure. So Moses endured reproach for what to him at the time was unnamed. But now the author of Hebrews looks back and calls it what it was. Moses enduring for the sake of Christ, the only hope we have now.

Likewise we now are called to endure reproach for his sake, and opportunities are not hard to come by. It may not be a Pharaoh seeking to kill us, but we are often given the choice between the fleeting pleasures of sin and Jesus. When we choose the latter we often choose hardship, as well.

Job in 25 minutes

We’re finishing Job having now spent three weeks going through its 42 chapters. There is a lot to digest from it, and not only because of its length. It is a weighty book dealing with questions of God’s role in the world and suffering.

We were blessed at church to have had a sermon two Sundays ago that took on the minor task of preaching on the entirety of the book. Often as we preach from the texts we’re reading we preach on some of the texts. But as this tries to sum up the whole, I thought I’d link to it here and offer it up as a good word on this deep book.

The Patience of Job, Lauren Taylor, October 21, 2012

 

Job’s boldness to cry out “my Redeemer lives”

Job 19 includes what are probably the most familiar lines from the whole book. Verse 25 says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” It is a powerful line and in it we see the hope, similar to what I wrote last week, of Christ. But it is all the more powerful given the context. Job boldly says that he does have a redeemer. He says this redeemer lives and this redeemer is spoken of in relation to Job one day seeing God. But all this he says in his dire circumstances. Earlier in the chapter Job has said this:

All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?

Life has been bitter to Job. He has called out hoping to meet death, wishing the day on which he was born was taken from history. The ones who should be close seem far, the ones who should love hate, and Job says even children despise him. Yet even as his world seems to crumble Job is able to find the strength to say, perhaps the strength to believe, that there truly is a redeemer. He does not let his circumstance dictate truth. God is God even when life is painful. We have hope even when there seems to be no hope for us. Even in the midst of sin and death we have one who redeems us from such slavery and who will usher us into the presence of God.

Sitting in Silence, lessons learned from Job’s Friends

7th print from William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job, pub. 1826

How often, when people are going through loss or tragedy, do we lament that we just don’t know what to say? Maybe that even holds us back from approaching others in their time of grief. The friends of Job may have plenty of words to say to him in his time of great suffering, but they don’t make up with quantity what they lack in quality. They come to bring comfort, but instead accuse him. I think we fear having wrong words like those three and that fear holds us back in a state of inaction.

To their credit they begin their time with Job with a great show of solidarity and compassion. The three come to him, tear their clothes, cover themselves in ashes, and sit with him. They sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights. Here was a man who had lost so much and was enduring great physical pain. Did they have the perfect thing to say that would make everything better? Of course not. What could they say? But Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to be by Job’s side.

They show compassion, a word whose root means to suffer with. They sit and suffer with Job, and that at least can be something we learn from them.

A man fully consecrated to God

Ludolph Backhuysen – Paul’s Shipwreck

In 2 Corinthians we see a long list of Paul’s sufferings that have come his way during his time as a minister of the gospel. Starting in 2 Corinthians 11:24, Paul writes:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul was so committed to the call God had placed upon him that he continued the work even as he faced such pains. Knowing the cost did not deter him. Christ was more precious to him than anything else.

This passage about Paul reminds me of the quote that Henry Varley spoke to D.L. Moody, “the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.” That certainly was Paul’s desire–to live his life for someone else, no matter the cost. As he pursued this goal, being used by God, Paul helped to change the world. And that is just what will happen when one gives themselves fully to God.