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Was it not Necessary for the Christ to Suffer

On the day Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to two disciples who were travelling from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).  As He walked with them, they were prevented from recognizing Him.  Thinking that He was a stranger, they began to explain to Him the events of the past three days.  They expressed their disappointment in the outcome of those events and the death of Jesus, saying, "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel" (v. 21).  Jesus replied to them and said,

25"O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  26Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"

Consider the Lord's question carefully.  These disciples had given up their hope that Jesus was the Redeemer of Israel because He had suffered and died.  With His question, Jesus challenged them to think again about what had happened.  In truth, Christ's suffering and death should have given them greater hope for redemption.  They were disappointed in what had happened only because their expectations did not comply with the word of God.  By God's inspiration, Moses and the prophets had foretold the things concerning the Christ in the Scriptures (v. 27).  They declared that the Christ would suffer for the redemption of Israel and all men (see especially Isa. 53).  Therefore, "was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"

Indeed, Jesus had to suffer to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies about Him, but the fulfillment of prophecy alone does not explain why God purposed from eternity to have His Son suffer (Eph. 2:11).  Why were Christ's  sufferings necessary?  What did the suffering of Jesus accomplish?  Was there no other way for God to achieve His purpose?  For the answer, consider Hebrews chapter 2.  Notice verse 9:

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

By His suffering of death and the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for all of us.  This was so that "through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (vv. 14-15).  By tasting death for us, Jesus took the punishment that was rightfully due to us, and by rising from death, Jesus broke the bonds of death's slavery that held us in fear.  To accomplish these purposes, His suffering was necessary.  There was no other way for death to be conquered.

Christ's suffering was also necessary for His own perfection as our Savior.  Notice verses Hebrews 2:10, 17-18:

17For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings...17Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  18For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

Do not misunderstand the meaning of the Lord's perfection.  It is not that Jesus was somehow flawed before His suffering, but rather it is that His suffering made Him complete as our Redeemer, High Priest, and Savior.  By putting on flesh, experiencing temptation (without sin -- Heb. 4:15), and suffering death Himself, Jesus became uniquely qualified to mediate between God and man.  As the Son of God, He represents God to man, and as the Son of Man, He represents man to God.  Consider Hebrews 5:8-9:

8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.  9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

These answers concerning the necessity of Christ's suffering are predicated by one overriding, immutable principle: God's love for us.  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).  If God did not love us, then it would not have been necessary for Jesus to suffer and die.  Therefore, the necessity is actually our salvation, which is necessary only because God loves us and desires to save us from eternal death.  In God's will, we are necessary.  Thank God for that.

Stacey E. Durham




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