Unimaginable Pain to Bring Incomparable Joy
I am now nearing Day 10 of my post-surgery recovery period. Having a total knee replacement is not for the faint at heart. Now, the surgery itself was not that bad – for that, I didn’t feel a thing. But afterwards, and during this current season of physical therapy…wow. Pure, blue, bright pain. The kind of pain that remains even after taking prescribed pain medication. And – as much as it hurts – I have to exercise through and in spite of this pain in order to have a new working knee that is not stiff. Yep, I have a new respect for anyone who has ever gone through this kind of rehabilitative physical therapy. It is not easy.
Now, my pain, as much as it hurts, does not compare to the sheer agony that Jesus endured on the cross. He willingly accepted not only the physical horrors of the beatings and the prolonged terror that are part and parcel to death via crucifixion. Historians have long commented on the fact that the Romans had perfected the most painful type of death ever conceived – death while hanging on a cross. They forced this death on criminals, traitors, anyone they deemed deserving. And they did it as a public event, a spectacle for all to see, bringing an impact of fear and resolve that might prevent any spectator from ever joining an uprising, for NO ONE would want their life to end that way.
Yet, Jesus, the perfect spotless Lamb of God, who broke no laws, who never mistreated a single person or uttered a solitary lie…allowed himself to be offered up on the cross, situated between two thieves. He did this for one reason – the great and undeniable love of God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It was love that drove Him to become the perfect sacrifice for all men. Just as Jesus was unique in all the heavens, so His shed blood would be unique to any other sacrifice ever made. His sacrificial death was so effective that it would have the power to bring forgiveness for sin – for both the present, and the future.
He encountered this pain – WITHOUT any aid or comfort. He had no helpful medications to take the edge off that unbelievable situation. Even when He cried out for water in thirst, the Romans answered that request with a sponge filled with sour wine.
But the physical pain of the cross and the crucifixion paled in comparison to another pain that He encountered – the pain that came as His Father poured on Him, the Son, the wrath that was due to every human being as penalty for our sin and disobedience. The final, incomprehensible pain came to Jesus as the Father simply…withdrew from Jesus, leaving him alone on the cross, in agony, burdened with the debt of sin. “Father, why have you forsaken me?…” That was the ultimate pain – the loss of fellowship with His Father. But that too was a critical part of this act of love. Jesus would die on the cross – as a sacrificial lamb – shedding His blood for the remittance of our sin.
Thankfully, the story didn’t end there. For, on the third day, the Father raised Jesus up from the tomb, in resurrection power, and in so doing secured a plan of redemption that would never fade or weaken. In raising Jesus up from the grave, the good news that was purchased on the cross became the Gospel message that is at the core of every true believer alive today. John records, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12 ESV)
Today, as I press through the pain of rehab, I am encouraged to remember that He is mindful of my pain, that He is acquainted with suffering. My pain, and even my very life will pass. But I will enjoy the fruit of His pain through all eternity.
Happy Resurrection Day – He is risen….He is risen INDEED.
~ Mike Gilland