For our sake Jesus “suffered” (Heb. 13:12) the “suffering of death” (Heb. 2:9). He experienced physical pain we cannot imagine. There is a reason the root of “excruciating” is the Latin word for “cross.” It began with a bloody scourging followed by savage pummeling. A crown of thorns, pressed down, punctured his scalp. Metal spikes impaled his wrists, securing him to the wooden cross-beam. Then he hung suspended for hours while every muscle cramped and every nerve was set on edge, until finally, mercifully, death ended it all.
Yet the Bible focuses more on the suffering of shame and nakedness, the disgrace of crucifixion (between two highwaymen at that), rejection by the leaders in society and religion, abandonment by his friends and — temporarily — by God (Psalm 22; Isa. 53). For our sake, Jesus endured that as well. Above all, he suffered the godforsakenness — the dereliction, the dark sky, the anguished cry, “My God, my God, why?” (Matt. 27:46). Why indeed?
His enemies joke among themselves: “He saved others, but he can’t save himself” (Mk. 15:31). They tell the truth, you know. If he is to save others he cannot save himself. In the end it is him or them. Him or us. “Come down from the cross,” the mockers cry, “if you are the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:39-40.) He needs only to ask the Father and he will immediately receive 12 legions of heavenly soldiers — 72,000 fighting angels (Matt. 26:53).
How his thoughts swirl! Does he see the devil smiling? Perhaps. But a different scene has captured his attention. In his mind he sees the future — a panorama of redeemed men and women and children too numerous to count, rising from the dead and meeting him in the air, his brothers and sisters sharing glory with him throughout eternity. He makes the choice. “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). The mockers have it wrong. Because he is the Son of God he will not come down from the cross. He will save others and not himself. And praise God, he did!