Why did Jesus have to suffer?

Last updated on December 8, 2022

Why did Jesus have to suffer?

God sent His Son into the world on a rescue mission: Jesus came to save us (John 3:16-17)! And so He had to die. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus knew He had to suffer

Jesus was clear that He had to suffer (Mark 8:31; 9:12; 9:31; 10:33-34), and He challenged those who disagreed with Him using very strong language (Mark 8:32-33). It should not have been a surprise that the Son of God had to die: before Jesus was born, multiple the prophets had already been predicting this for centuries (Luke 24:25-27)! Jesus’ suffering is hinted at in the very opening pages of the Bible, where the prophet Moses recorded God’s promise of a Savior Who would defeat the devil through suffering (Genesis 3:15).

More details are given in later prophecies. King David, for example, accurately described Jesus’ death 1,000 years before it happened, and foresaw that this would lead to future generations hearing the good news and worshiping God in righteousness (Psalm 22). The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). Isaiah explained that He had to suffer and die in our place for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6) because “it was the LORD’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer and afterwards to raise Him to life so that many people could be forgiven” (Isaiah 53:10-12).

Jesus understood the significance of His suffering the same way the prophets did. He summarized the message of the Old Testament like this:

This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

Jesus rose from the dead

After Jesus had convinced His followers that He really had risen from the dead (Luke 24:37-43; Acts 1:3), He sent them out to proclaim this good news to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The Apostles shared the same understanding of Jesus’ suffering as Jesus and the Old Testament prophets (Acts 2:29-32; 3:18). They testified that Jesus was the suffering “Christ” / “Messiah” foretold by all the prophets (Acts 17:2-3). He suffered so that our sins could be forgiven (Hebrews 9:26-28); He suffered so that we too could rise again, victorious over death and the devil (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14-15); and He suffered so that these blessings could be enjoyed by people from all around the world (Acts 26:22-23)! Moreover, when the early Christians were persecuted for sharing this good news, they were encouraged by one more reason for Jesus’ suffering: Jesus suffered as an example for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21).

Suffering as a Christian

If you are suffering as a Christian, rejoice (1 Peter 4:16)! Because Jesus has already suffered the full punishment for your sins in your place (1 Peter 2:24), a great reward is waiting for you in heaven (Luke 6:22-23)! But remember that Jesus is not only your Savior; He is also your role model. Let His life encourage you that He understands what you are going through (Hebrews 2:18); let His death inspire you to honor God in your own suffering (1 Peter 2:23; 4:1); and let His resurrection thrill you with the certain hope of a glorious future (1 Peter 1:3). Don’t be surprised by your suffering (1 Peter 4:12), for the pattern of a genuine Christian life (Hebrews 2:10-11; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:1; Revelation 1:9), like the pattern of Jesus’ life (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 1:11) is suffering first, glory later (Romans 8:17-18; Philippians 3:10-11; Hebrews 13:12-14).

As Jesus Himself said:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

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