When did Jesus begin to suffer? You might think that Jesus began to suffer on the night of his betrayal or when the Roman soldiers began to beat him with rods and whips. You might think that he began to suffer when the first nail was driven into his hand, or perhaps after the first few hours of excruciating pain, as he hung on the cross.
I’m not going to get sentimental on you and say some blubbery stuff about Jesus’ suffering starting when others let him down. Jesus had thicker skin than that. So when did Jesus begin to suffer?
Imagine if you turned me into a worm, scooped me out of the dirt, impaled me on a hook, tossed me into a lake, and then fed me to a hungry fish. When did my suffering begin? My suffering did not begin inside the fish’s mouth (though that would be quite traumatic!), but further back. My suffering began the moment you turned me into a worm. Had you done nothing else, just by turning me into a worm, my life would be wrecked.
The suffering of Jesus began the moment he became human.
Jesus left the perfect bliss of heaven in order to enter the comparative hell of earth. His suffering began at incarnation. God-with-us ultimately means God-suffers-with-us. He became a despised worm, so that he could join us and identify with us in our muddy misery. Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it in Philippians 2:6-7,
Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.
We may think that turning into “the likeness of men” were a good thing. Who wouldn’t want to be like us? Jesus began to suffer the moment he became human. When did God begin to suffer for us? Christmas. When Jesus became human, he let go of all his rights and pleasures as God. He made himself nothing.
That’s when his identification with the human race and plight began. That’s when he was tossed to the earth as a worm. He was given the body of a human, so that, one day, the Romans would have something to nail to a cross. The only reason you fish with a worm is to give the fish something to consume. The only reason God went fishing with his Son was to give death something to consume. God the Father pierced his Son with the hook of the cross and then lowered him down into this Lake of Fire, so that he could catch us and bring us home. Continuing with Philippians 2:8,
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Why is this important? The season of Advent needs to be sobered by this truth. True, it’s an amazing celebration that God came to be with us in Jesus. However, in the midst of all the cheer, we must not miss his deep and profound love for us. Jesus showed up on our doorstep as a worm. That ought to move us to tears. Forever, we have to live with the knowledge that there’s a God who would go to any length to rescue us.
© Samuel Kee, 2012