Sacred Symbols of Our Suffering, Yet Victorious Savior
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Resurrection day is the most joyous day of the Christians calendar! It is the day Christ arose victorious from the dead. When Christ revealed himself to the Apostle John He said, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Revelation 1:18 Hallelujah, we have a Savior who is alive and making intercession for us today before God (Romans 8:34). May we raise our voices in praise and say, "Thank you Lord Jesus." But, I remind you that before our Lord’s victory there was an enormous amount of suffering. In this message, we are going to consider the sacred symbols associated with our Savior’s suffering and then look at the symbol of His Victory. Again, I remind you that all Christ’s suffering was for us! Isaiah 53:5 says, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
"But he was wounded for our transgressions… and with his stripes we are healed."
Scourging was a brutal form of corporal punishment that involved tying the victim to a bench or post and whipping him severely. The number of blows was fixed as we read in Deuteronomy 25:2-3 – "And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee." Later, by Rabbinical instruction that was reduced to thirty-nine. Paul mentions that five time he had received 39 stripes from the Jews (2 Corinthians 11:24). The person being scourged was to receive thirteen stokes on the chest and twenty-six on the back. Often the victim died from a scourging. Perhaps you are wondering, why didn’t Paul die. He was whipped five times. The answer is revealed in a study of the Greek wods used. The Greek language indicates that there were three levels of whipping. Scourging was the worst. Then there was flogging and finally chastisement. Different whips were used in administering the beatings. The flagrum or scourge used on Christ likely had lead balls and pieces of bone affixed to it, because we know His flesh was mutilated by the beating. Isaiah 50:6 prophetically foretold, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting."
Why was Jesus Christ bruised and beaten? The Apostle Peter tells us, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." 1 Peter 2:24-25. Christ had no sins of His own (1 Peter 2:22). He was paying for our sins. The scourge is a symbol of the awfulness of our sin and the terrible price Christ personally paid for our sins (Isaiah 52:14).
"And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head." Matthew 27:29-30
The crown of thorns is a symbol of Christ suffering public humiliation and public rejection. The Lord of Glory was despised and rejected of men! Why did he allow it when he could have stopped it! Christ could have called 81,912 angels (Matthew 26:53) and they would have instantly been at His side!
The answer is found in 1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…"
"For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet." Psalms 22:16
"He that is hanged is accursed of God." Deuteronomy 21:23
The Jews detested the death of the cross. Roman citizens were exempt from this heinous form of death. This form of death was reserved for the most serious crimes such as treason, desertion in the face of the enemy, piracy, assassination, sedition, etc. The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense, especially in hot climates. Severe local inflammation, coupled with some amount of bleeding from the jagged wounds produced traumatic fever, which was aggravated the exposure to the heat of the sun, the strained of the body, and insufferable thirst. The swelling about the rough nails and the torn lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony.
The arteries of the head and stomach were supercharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind was confused and filled with anxiety and dread. The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths. Tetanus often appeared and the rigors of the attending convulsions would tear at the wounds and add to the burden of pain, till at last the bodily forces were exhausted and the victim sank into unconsciousness and death. The sufferings were so frightful that "even among the raging passions of war pity was sometimes excited."
But why did Christ endure all of this? There are two passages, one in Galatians and one in Colossians that answer this question –
Galatians 3:13 "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:"
Colossians 2:13-14 "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;"
My friend, these are the sacred symbols of our suffering Savior –
He suffered all these for you! W. G. Ovens wrote –
There is yet one more most important symbol that we must not miss. It is the symbol of victory!
"…Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee," Luke 24:5-6
The literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity! The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that He was the Son of God and that God accepted His sacrifice as payment for the sins of mankind. (See - Romans 1:4 says that Christ was "…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." 1 John 2:2 "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.")
The New Testament church was born out of Peter preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Act 2. Peter preaches it again in Acts 4, then again in Acts 10. Stephen preaches the resurrection in Acts 7. Philip preaches it in Acts 8. In Acts 9, 13, and on through 28, Paul preaches the resurrection.
Why is the resurrection so important? It is through the resurrection of
Jesus Christ that we are born-again. The same divine power that physically raised Christ from
the dead is the power that brings the spiritually dead sinner to spiritual life. 1 Peter
1:3 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which
according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Paul put it this way: "Who was
delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 1
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in
hope of the glory of God." Romans 4:25-5:2. But, there’s more. Believers will
be physically raised from the dead to immortality just as Christ was (1 Corinthians
15:20-23). The unsaved will be raised as well, but to eternal damnation in the Lake of
Fire (Acts 24:15). The resurrection you will have part in depends on what you have
done with Christ. Is Christ your Savior? If not, I urge you to receive Him today!