It Wasn't Easy for Him
Solomon said it best, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). The Apostle John, too, knew that when it came to Jesus, were every one of the things he did were to be written, the world couldn’t contain them all (John 21:25). Include in that multitude books on the atonement of Jesus.
But not all books are created equal. Many books can explain the doctrine but not all can make one feel the glory of it.
Enter Donald Macleod’s treatment of Christ’s crucifixion in Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement among the latter.
In the opening chapter, Macleod urges the reader to feel the intensity of Jesus’ suffering for his people. In a section on the cross as the climax of his suffering, he makes the point—quite effectively—that the cross was “but the climax of his suffering. His whole life, from the cradle to the tomb, was suffering.” He goes on to explain in more detail.
Once the public ministry commences, the pressures and privations are immediately obvious. They begin with the temptations in the desert, underlining the fact that though Jesus was free from sin he was not free from temptation. On the contrary, he was tempted just like ourselves ‘in every way; (Heb. 4:15). Behind the phraseology, sanitized by centuries of quotation, lies the harsh reality that Jesus was dogged and harassed by the Prince of Darkness throughout his life. But there were more mundane pressures as well, and they clearly took their toll, even of his physical appearance: so much so that he could be taken for a fifty-year-old (John 8:57) when he was scarcely thirty. He was poor beyond our imagining, owning only the clothes he stood in; homeless, without a pillow for his head; oppressed by crowds demanding a sign and plying him with endless questions; often exhausted, as when he lay dead to the world in the stern of a tiny fishing boat caught in the eye of a fearful storm (Mark 4:38). He was misunderstood by his family, who feared for his sanity; pursued by the sick and their desperate relatives; stalked by the Pharisees with their undisguised hostility and their sly coadjutors with their entrapping conundrums (Mark 12:13). His whole life followed a pattern of rejection: rejection in ‘his own country’, Nazareth; rejection by the religious establishment; rejection by public opinion, always fickle; and rejection, at last, by his disciples, who all forsook him and fled.
When Jesus entered our world, he came all the way down. He lived no middle-class life. He was invited into the places of power only to be condemned. His withstood the full weight of temptation but never gave in. His sufferings before the cross were intense and profound.
This, to me, heightens the active obedience of Christ, whereby he obeyed God all his days, never failing once. He was truly a man of sorrows. It wasn’t easy for him. But sorrow didn’t overwhelm him, for it was the joy that was set before him for which he endured the cross. He suffered for his people because he rejoiced in his people. And all the suffering was worth it because he obtained the prize for which he lived: us.