The Suffering Of The Son Of Man

Sacramental Meditation XX

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 271-73; minimally edited

“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22)

Our Lord oft spoke of His sufferings to His disciples, because He would have them deeply imprinted upon the hearts of all His people, that they might always think upon them, and carry about with them the dying of the Lord Jesus. As Christ foretold His sufferings beforehand, so they came exactly to pass. He said He must “suffer many things” for His people, and accordingly He did so. Let me view His sufferings before I go to commemorate them at His table.

1. I must consider Him that suffered many things for us; the Spirit of God requires us to consider the High-Priest, who He is (Heb 3:1). Though He calls Himself in the text the Son of Man, as to His human nature, yet He is also the Son of God as to His divine nature; yea, God equal with the Father, the great God our Saviour. This God-Man, the Wonderful, is our High-Priest, that suffered many things for us. He is our glorious Emmanuel, the immaculate Lamb of God, that had not the least crime of His own to suffer for. He is the brightness of His Father’s glory, the express image of His person; He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He that suffered is He that went about always doing good to persons of all sorts, and deserved well of those who persecuted and crucified Him. He is the great lover of mankind, and friend of sinners; our glorious benefactor; one that comes under the most endearing characters to us, as that of our father, our husband, our brother, master, physician, ransomer, etc. Now, will not a son be sensible of the sufferings of his father, or a wife of the sufferings of her husband? Or one brother be touched with the sufferings of another? This is the great High-Priest that suffered “many things” for us.

2. I am to consider the “many things” He suffered. Ah, they are so various, and manifold, I cannot recount nor comprehend them! I may say, He suffered in both natures. Though His Godhead could not properly suffer grief or pain, yet it suffered an eclipse for thirty-three years, except a short time it shone forth on Mount Tabor. He suffered many things in His human nature, both in soul and body; He was persecuted, tempted, calumniated, betrayed, bound, mocked, spit upon, buffeted, scourged, wounded, crowned with thorns, and crucified. He suffered in all His offices, He was mocked as a Prophet, and bid prophesy [by those] who smote him; as a Priest, He was bid save himself, seeing He pretended to save others; as King, He was mocked with an old purple robe and thorny crown. He suffered in His honour and reputation, being disgraced and reproached by men, called a Samaritan, one possessed of the devil, a blasphemer, a glutton, a drunkard, a seducer, etc. He was even overwhelmed with calumny. He suffered as a blasphemer against God, as a traitor to Caesar, and an enemy to Moses’ law, though He was free of them all. He was wounded and pierced in all parts of His body, in His head, hands, and feet; in His cheeks, back, and side. He suffered in His outward goods, being spoiled of all things, and even stripped of His clothes to His very skin, and nailed to the cross naked. He suffered in all His five senses; His sight, with the spiteful carriage of those that passed by, wagging their heads; His hearing, with their blasphemous talk; His smell, with the noisome savour of the sculls of the dead; His taste, with vinegar and gall; His feelings, with thorns and nails piercing His head, hands, and feet. He suffered in the most tender and sinewy parts of His body by the tormenting nails, especially being violently stretched out, and probably disjointed; therefore He saith, “They have pierced my hands and my feet, I may tell all my bones, they look and stare upon me” (Ps 22:16, 17). He suffered most of all in His soul, and its noble faculties. How great was the agony and travail of His soul, when He sweat blood in the garden through all the pores of His body! Oh how great was the anguish of His mind upon His heavenly Father’s deserting Him, which made Him send forth a dreadful cry to heaven for relief, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Then it was He cried and groaned under His pressure, but no relief appeared; there was none to answer, every door was shut against Him. For at this time His own sun, His own heaven, His own Father, His own Godhead, did all hide their faces and consolations from Him! Oh the many things He suffered for us, they cannot be numbered!

3. I am to consider from whom the Son of Man suffered. He suffered from all hands, from earth, from hell, from heaven; from men, from devils, from infinite justice. He suffered from all sorts of men, from King Herod and His men of war, who mocked him, and set Him at nought; from the Jewish priests and rulers, who cruelly used and persecuted Him to death; from Governor Pilate, who scourged and condemned Him to be crucified. He suffered from the Jews and from the Romans, from the clergy and from the lawyers, from soldiers and servants, from great ones and commons, and even from those He had done much good unto. He suffered from those whom He came to save and wash by His blood; for there were three thousand of those who crucified him, or were active in His sufferings, that were converted to Him by Peter’s sermon (Acts 2). He suffered not only from enemies, but by professed friends and disciples; one of these betrayed and sold him, another of them denied and abjured him, and all the rest forsook him, and left Him alone to suffer in the midst of devils and ruffians insulting over him. He suffered from devils, and all the powers of hell; these dogs and “bulls of Bashan” were all let loose to tear and gore Him in His last sufferings; “for this” (he said) was their “hour and power of darkness.” But, which was worst of all, He suffered also from heaven; for being substituted in the room of sinners, a just and holy God acted as an inexorable judge towards him, frowned terribly upon him, smote Him with the sword of justice, and withdrew His lovingkindness from him, and those divine influences which might refresh His troubled soul in the hour of His greatest need. And thus He fell a sacrifice to incensed justice for our heinous guilt and provocations. At this time a fearful cloud was spread over the glorious Sun of Righteousness, never was such an eclipse seen or heard of as this! For a candle to be put out is no great matter, but for the sun to be darkened is very uncommon. But though sun, moon, and stars had all been blown out at once, it would be nowise so amazing as the darkening of the eternal Sun of Righteousness upon the cross! A strange and marvellous sight! What meant the heat of this great anger? Must even the Creator himself suffer for the creature’s sins? Must He suffer such a load of wrath as to make Him cry out to the astonishment of angels and men?

4. I am to consider for whom it was He suffered those great and many things. He suffered not for himself, for He never offended either against God or man, and deserved no punishment. He suffered none for fallen angels; they must all suffer for themselves. It was only for men of Adam’s race, that were debtors to justice and prisoners of wrath; He suffered for creatures most undeserving, for rebels, and for many that were His greatest enemies; and even for those who were His murderers and executioners, for He both prayed and was heard for them, when they were pouring out His blood.

5. Let me consider with what affection He suffered all those things for us. It was His ardent love to perishing souls, which many waters could not quench; with fervent wishes and longings for the hour of His passion. “I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished” with great liberality? It is not blood of His finger or part of His blood, that He would shed for us; no, He would needs put out all His blood, and even His heart-blood too, and with that He poured out His soul also (Isa 53). Why would He be so liberal? That with Him there might be “plenteous redemption” (Ps 130:7). He suffered with great meekness, patience, and resignation. When He suffered He threatened not, but was led as a sheep to the slaughter, dumb, not opening His mouth. With great humility and self-denial, content to be as “a worm and no man,” to bring glory to His Father; with a thirsty zeal for the salvation of souls, and for completing the work of our redemption. And hence it was, He cried on the cross, “I thirst,” and glad when He could say, “it is finished.”

Oh what cause have I to obey His dying charge, to go to His memorial feast, and to think upon and wonder at the matchless love of Christ, that made Him willing to suffer so many things for such wretched creatures as I am. He knew well enough beforehand what our salvation would cost Him, yet He willingly undertook it, saying, upon the very first motion of it, “ Lo, I am come.” But saith God to Him, if you will engage in this work, you must lie under my wrath, and be handled as if you were the sinner in law. Well, saith Christ, “I come to do thy will, O God.” I am satisfied with the terms. Let the cup be never so bitter, I will drink it. O loving High-Priest, how shall I think of thy sufferings without raptures of love and admiration! I had been in hell if thou hadst not been in an agony here; yea, not only I, but all the posterity of Adam had perished if thou hadst not suffered those many things for them. Surely the weight of wrath which made Thee heavy, and caused Thee to fall to the ground, sweat, groan, and cry, would have sunk all mankind into hell forever. Oh what ingratitude must it be to refuse Christ’s offers and terms of salvation, after what He has suffered to purchase it! Was He at so much pains to obtain redemption for us, and will we be at no pains to get an interest in it? Did He shed blood, and will not I drop tears? Lord, pity this heart of mine.