Christ’s suffering began before He got to the cross. On the night He was betrayed, He ate the Passover with His disciples. There He served them and girded Himself with a towel and washed their feet. When it came time to eat, He told His disciples that the one to whom He gave the sop was the man who would betray Him. This man was Judas, one of the twelve. (See John 13:21-30) Jesus suffered the heartache of betrayal by a friend, a friend with whom He had eaten and who had been with Him for more than three years.
Jesus was also heavy of heart because He knew that all His disciples would soon desert Him. Peter would deny Him, and the other disciples would all flee. Jesus would have to go through His suffering alone. When friends desert us during times of trouble, that makes our sorrows even harder to bear. But we have one Friend who will not leave us, and that is Jesus. Jesus knows what it is like to be left alone. His disciples left Him. However, if we place our faith and trust in Jesus, He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced even more sorrow. When He and his disciples came to the garden, He told His disciples, “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” (Matthew 26:36) then he took with Him Peter and James and John. But Jesus began to be sorrowful and very heavy. “38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (verses 38,39)
Upon reading these verses, one can almost feel the agony of heart Jesus was enduring. Surely His friends would support Him in His sorrow. But wait! What were they doing when Jesus came back to them? Sleeping. Twice more Jesus prayed in agony of spirit. His suffering was so intense that He sweat and his sweat “was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (See Luke 22:44) Yet, His disciples slept on. God did not leave Jesus though. He sent an angel unto Him from heaven to strengthen Him. (See verse 23)
The next sorrow was soon to fall heavily upon Jesus. “45And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, 46And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. 47And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. 48But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:45-48) Judas, a man Jesus loved, a disciple who walked with Jesus for three years, was now the man who betrayed Him. Jesus knew this would happen, but He still felt the pain of the betrayal.
We wonder why - why would a man into whom Jesus had poured His heart, His time, and His love, betray Him? Why? These events were also fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. (See Psalm 109 and Acts 1:20) For Jesus’ love, Judas showed enmity. When Jesus’ heart was broken, Judas showed no mercy but persecuted Him. In fact, Judas betrayed Him into the hands of those who would put Him to death.
Is your heart broken? Jesus knows what it is like to have a broken heart. Did your friends forsake you in sorrow? Did those you love add to your sorrow? Jesus knows what it is like to be forsaken in sorrow. Lean on Jesus, rest on His bosom. Trust in Him. He can help you in your sorrow, for He has gone before you and partaken of it first.
Jesus is forsaken
After Jesus was betrayed, He was led away to the high priest’s house. Peter followed afar off. He went into the hall and sat down near the fire. As he sat there, a maid looked upon him and said, “This man was also with him.” But Peter “denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.” Twice more Peter was asked if he were with Christ. Twice more Peter denied Him. (See Luke 22:54-62) Why? Why would one of Jesus’ own disciples deny Him when He was in trouble. This was the disciple that had declared, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” (verse 33) Now Peter claimed he had no association with Jesus. Peter was part of the inner circle. He had gone up to the mountain and had seen Jesus transfigured. There Jesus had stood before him, shining in all His glory! Now Peter declared he did not even know Him.
All of the other disciples also fled and left Jesus to suffer and die alone. Jesus endured an unfair trial and was unjustly accused of wrongdoing and sentenced to die. He was mocked and scourged and buffeted. His beard was plucked out. Truly, He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (See Isaiah 53:2)
“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him….” (Luke 23:33)
“45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45,46)
Why? The true, heartfelt why! Why had God forsaken Him? God forsook Him because Jesus was bearing all our sins in His own body on the cross. The LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (See Isaiah 53:6) Because God is holy, He cannot tolerate the presence of sin. He must turn His back upon it, and He must punish it. God was afflicting Jesus because of our sin - your sin and my sin. Jesus experienced the greatest loneliness, heartache, and emptiness because God His Father had turned His back on Him. He had never been separated from His Father before. But He experienced this separation so that you and I would have the opportunity to experience reconciliation with the Father.
Jesus did all this on the cross for us so that we might have redemption from our sin through Jesus’ blood. Because Jesus bore our sins on the cross and suffered the punishment for them, we can receive forgiveness and cleansing for our sin. When we believe in Jesus and love Him and trust in Him, God the Father will love us and will come into our hearts and dwell there with Jesus. (See John 14:23) Jesus also seals us and gives us the earnest of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. (See I Corinthians 1:22) The Holy Spirit helps us to remember that a wonderful time is coming in which we will lay down our earthly garments and put on heavenly garments. Our mortality will be swallowed up in life. (I Corinthians 1:1-5)
Jesus is able to give us life because He was victorious on the cross. After He finished bearing the guilt and punishment of our sins, He cried out, “It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:30b) After this, He was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (See I Corinthians 15:3,4) Because of this, we can know that, if we die in Christ, we will rise again. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:57)
We no longer need to fear death because death is swallowed up in victory! And we no longer need to fear living because our Saviour is with us always, and He promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5b) God the Father forsook Jesus for a brief time on the cross so that we who believe in Jesus can experience His presence with us forever. He will never leave us nor forsake us -- not in this world, nor for all eternity. Since Jesus is my Saviour, I am His and He is mine -- for ever!