“Tell of the Sorrow He Bore”: What and How Jesus Suffered in Life


By Wayne S. Walker

     The coming of Jesus Christ was prophesied throughout the Old Testament.  Thus, in the fulness of time, the Word who was God became flesh.  When He came, He was born of a virgin.  While on earth, He was tempted in all points as we are.  His life was one of labor for the eternal good of mankind.   Fanny J. Crosby, in her famous hymn of 1880, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” mentions many of these facts.  She also wrote, “Tell of the sorrow He bore: He was despised and afflicted, Homeless, rejected, and poor.”  During the time in which Jesus lived on this earth, He suffered many things in different ways.

“So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’   As He also says in another place:  ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek;’ who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:5-10).   The inspired writer indicates that the sufferings of Christ have an important meaning for us in relationship to His being a sympathetic and merciful high priest.  So let us see what we can learn as we consider what and how Jesus suffered in life.

He suffered poverty.  Apparently, Jesus was born into a poor family.  In Luke 2:22-24, it is said that at His presentation in the temple, the sacrifice offered was “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  According to Leviticus 12:1-8, if the mother was too poor to bring a lamb, then she could bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons.  As an adult, Jesus Himself lived in what we would probably call poverty.  When someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go,” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:57-58).  What about us?  There may be times in our lives when have to deal with having less than we desire.  Jesus warns us about the danger covetousness in thinking that the quality of our lives depends on the things which we possess (Luke 12:15; cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Heb. 13:5-6).  His chosen messengers remind us to think in different terms.  “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away” (James 1:9-10).  The next time you seem to have more month left than money, just remember that Jesus had “nowhere to lay His head.”

He suffered rejection.  In fact, His entire life was basically one of being rejected.  “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11).   Just consider some specific examples.  When He returned to His hometown in Nazareth, the people became so angry that they tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29).  On one occasion, many of His disciples did not like what He was saying, so they turned back and walked with Him no longer (John 6:60-66).  Even His own brothers did not believe in Him during His earthly life (John 7:1-5).   We may also suffer rejection, even by some we love.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-37).  So the next time some neighbor slams the door in your face when you try to hand him a tract or a dear relative says, “If you’re going to talk this religious stuff with me, then just get out of my house and don’t ever come back,” remember that Jesus suffered rejection too.

He suffered hatred.  You can almost feel the hatred that most of the Jewish leaders had for Him.  In John 9:28-29, they told the blind man whom Jesus had healed, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”  They hated Him so much, they wanted to kill Him (see John 11:45-53).  Of course, throughout history, the world has always hated those who stood for righteousness.  “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.  Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:11-13).   Therefore, we can expect that the world will hate us too.  “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).  The vast majority of the world hated Jesus, so those of us who are trying to be His disciples should not be surprised that the world will hate us too.

He suffered persecution.  As a result of the rejection and hatred expressed towards Him, Jesus suffered outright mistreatment as well and was even the subject of more than one attempt to kill Him.  On at least two occasions, the Jews took up stones to stone Him (John 5:16-18, 10:30-33).  He again warned His disciples to expect the same kind of treatment.  “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).  Other passages of Scripture remind us of this.  “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12; cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:12-16).  Oh, they may not crucify us, or even try to stone us, but if men persecuted Jesus Christ our Master, we might as well expect that they will persecute us who are His disciples as well.

The problem of suffering is one of the most perplexing issues which mankind has faced and puzzled over.  And we may never know or understand all the answers to this question in this life.  But it is certainly comforting and helpful to know that our God, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, suffered on this earth for us.  “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:16-18).

—in Search for Truth; Oct. 11, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 11

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