2.) The Godly Leader Endures through Hardships
Christ’s witness at His death
These three verses give us special insight into Christ’s attitude toward suffering. Further explanation is given of the righteous servant’s mysterious death. These explanations expand our understanding of Christ’s sufferings in a significant way. It is for this reason they play such an important part of our understanding of Christ’s death on the cross. But there is another reason that we must keep in mind. We are not only trying to understand Christ’s work on the cross but also how it is to affect our Christian lives.
Peter's first epistle is significantly shaped by Isaiah 53:7-9. Just before he partially quotes and summarizes in his own words, he says this, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Modern man with his pursuit of liberty, peace and ease has no place for this verse in their hearts. And yet, the apostle reminds us that Jesus not only died on the cross to bring forgiveness but also to leave us an example for us to follow. We are to follow in His steps. In other words, we should never compromise our lives to escape suffering but simply to follow Jesus’ own steps. Let’s now look how Christ suffered for our sins.
It is here we get such a wonderful glimpse into Jesus’ own perspective of life. It is one thing to say we believe, but it is important to see what happens when we are tested. The New Testament records Jesus’ attitude when he approached Jerusalem. “And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Troubles would attack His soul, but He would nonetheless go and endure the cross. Jesus was a lamb that walked wherever God led Him. He cared not for His own needs but for the needs of others.
Why didn't Jesus open His mouth to protest? In John 5:22 Jesus says all judgment has been given to Him and yet He remains quiet while being made a victim of other people’s jealousy. As we look at the Gospel records we see that these Jewish trials were illegal. They were not seeking righteous verdicts but accusations to satisfy their own unrighteous passions. They were jealous of Jesus. If they were looking for the Words of Life, Jesus would gladly have told them, but under this pretense of a righteous court, He would not speak out unless they forced Him to by law (Matthew 26:63).
The image of a sheep being brought to a place where all its wool would be shaved speaks powerfully of the treatment of Jesus including the mocking, the shame, the crown, the spitting and beating. He lay naked before them and innocently goes to the cross where He would suffer death. He acted as a lamb who didn’t know what would happen and yet He did know. He knew He would not be rescued on this side of death. No one forced Jesus’ hand. He willingly went where His Father directed Him. He didn’t protest as if He did not agree but in His silence confessed His willingness to entrust God with His life and obedience.
Application: Doesn’t this show us how we are not to struggle for our own lives but only that for others. Usually, our lives are prepared to protect ourselves rather than helping others. What do you do when a church member for some unjust reason begins to attack you and cause others to question your character? We have a choice. We can respond as hewith an attackor simply quietly discern God’s purposes and love for him and others.
We see the Apostle Paul exemplified this attitude when he several times did not fully claim his rights. He was a Roman citizen and was not to be judged without proven guilt. And yet he allowed himself to be judged with making known his full Roman privileges. When he did, it was because he was thinking of his brethren rather than himself. If we need to suffer, do we do it with the right attitude or do we give ourselves to revenge or exerting our rights?
Are we willing to suffer and entrust our lives to Him who judges righteously? We will be challenged to devote our lives to serving the Lord wherever He sends not matter what the costs. People might think this is irrational, but we must remember that this is our own Father who perfectly understand our circumstances that sends us. Can we trust Him? Why wouldn’t we trust Him? When we have ‘died to ourselves,’ we in fact no longer live to carry out our own will but His. We have subjugated our wills to His. And though it seems that this is the most extreme and limited life, it is really where we begin to find our life. We were made to carry out God’s will. Our wills should be totally caught up in doing what our Father wants even if it means we need to walk in a dark and lonely place. Some of you are already doing that. Some have found rejection. Others physical affliction. But you have endured that so that you can like Christ live fully devoted to the Lord. You want to be available.
The hardest part of suffering, facing rejection and the like is not necessarily the pain or bruises. We are not denying the anguish of physical pain but trying to grasp what emotional pain was also present. In this case we see that no one around Him could appreciate His purpose. They did not understand why He died. Some people of course thought it was because He was evilthey didn’t know how He was evil, but they concluded that only evil people die such a death. This total misunderstanding of Christ’s life and death is what we see here.
Most remarkable is the disciples unwillingness or inability to comprehend Jesus’ death. They were closest to Jesus and yet even they could not appreciate Jesus’ mission. Jesus told them over and over again what would happen, but they revolted from the idea. We don’t see them asking why He would die. They just shuddered from the idea, perhaps thinking Jesus was speaking in some allegorical form. Did anyone understand or appreciate what Jesus was doing? Remember Peter cutting off the soldier’s ear? This was like a last minute attempt to keep Jesus from His life mission. “Simon Peter therefore having a sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus” (John 18:10).
It is difficult to know that nobody else understands all the good that one is doing. Without the purpose of suffering, the pain really looks barren and bleak. Did anyone really appreciate the suffering that He went through? Did anyone compliment Jesus on how faithful He was? Not at all. They showed by their departure that even the ones closest to Jesus really did not love nor understand Him or appreciate His dedication.
No one could grasp the purpose of Jesus’ death. Jesus’ whole life was looked upon as a waste when He hung there on the tree. Oppressive-looking Roman soldiers took Jesus away. Only Christ’s Father in heaven understood that He died for His people’s sins. He died for their transgression. Matthew 1:21 reminds of Jesus’ calling, “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
People had different ideas of success and salvation. It was perhaps better imaged by Joshua bravely leading the Israelites into the land to conquer it. No one could see the point of Jesus’ death, even though it was here in Isaiah 53 so clearly written many hundreds of years ahead of time. They just couldn’t comprehend how victory could come through death. It never occurred to them that victory was taking place. Jesus died alone. Very alone.
Application: We can endure many kinds of hardships, but it is excruciating to know that people do not know the reason we are suffering. It was very hard for Jesus to be totally misunderstood at the crowning of His ministry. He terribly suffered. We might go through such times of misunderstanding too. We are doing what God wants and yet from the outside people scoff at us for the way we live or the decisions we make in obedience to God. As long as we care about what others think of us, then we cannot do God’s will. God at times requires that we do things that people will not accept and not understand. People might not understand, but in obedience we carry out what He wants and endure people’s ridicule. God is with us.
If Jesus died with the wicked, one would expect Him to be buried with them. But he wasn't! This is because He wasn't like them. He had done no violence. Nor did He speak lies, half-lies or deceit. 1 Peter 2:22-23 says, “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, he did not revile in return.” The righteous God saw to it that He had a significant ending. It seemed like the horror of the cross loomed over the whole situation but something else more powerful was working behind the scenes.
The Lord controls the universe. He is easily able to influence circumstances. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” When God thinks the misunderstanding has gone far enough, He stops it. God wanted to use the suffering One to declare His great works. So although he died with the wicked, the Father appointed that he would be buried with the rich. God defends Himself quite well without us. Let’s note how God does this. Compare this verse with Matthew 27:57-60.
God prompted a rich believer to risk his life and reputation by asking and taking the body of Jesus and lying it in his own tomb. Of course looking back we can see it was this situation that made it possible to verify Jesus’ resurrection. If He was in some mass unknown grave, there would not have been the witnesses that we have. God wanted to place this resurrection of Jesus in the historical books.
Notice the word ‘because’ in verse 9. The scriptures are quite clear in telling us why God appointed Jesus Christ to be buried with the rich. He wanted to establish Christ’s righteousness. So although it might seem that the kingdom of God is being maligned and failing, we need to have the utmost confidence that He is there to work things out just right at the correct time. I assure you that to have a rich man to come forth and identify himself with this man was not an easy thing to do. If God can do that, then He can do anything. We don’t need to make ourselves look okay to the political, social, and business leaders. We do need to live righteous lives without compromise. We need to live out the law of love which requires us to be polite and kind. But we dare not compromise the message or the way we live.
In the end, we see that we can always trust God to do what is right and needful. He can and will always turn our difficult situation into what is glorifying to His Name. We are His servants and sometimes He honors us with suffering like Christ. Let us be faithful and trust that He will make all things right in the end.
Application: When God asks you to go through hard times, do you complain or can you like Jesus trust God to care for you and the situation? Like Jesus we will be patient and entrust ‘ourselves to Him who judges righteously.’ It might appear that the wild jealous world wins for a while, but we only have to trust Him in time and eternity to set things straight. He will. He has to.
Throughout verses 7-9 we find how Jesus suffered. This fourth stanza rightly runs parallel in thought to 53:1-3. The physical and emotional trauma that Jesus suffered goes far beyond what we could ever suffer. It is crucial that we rightly understand how God would have the righteous suffer. We are to profit not only from the work of Jesus on the cross but also His example. This is the path set out for us.
God has His design for each of our lives. Perhaps we like to think our life would be better. Peter heard he was not going to have an easy end. In John 21:21 Peter asked Jesus what would happen to John. “What about this man?” Jesus essentially told Peter that it had nothing to do with him. “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”
God has planned a path for each one of us to walk. Once we look to what God is doing in another believer’s life, then we take our eyes off what He has for us. We only can be faithful if we follow Jesus’ advice, “Follow Me!” We must keep our eyes on Jesus and trust Him for where our path goes. We will all go through difficult times, but they will be very different. We should not envy others, thinking that is is unfair that one is rich while another is poor, one suffers nothing while another dies. We all need to follow Jesus. What about you? Will you follow Him? Confess your sins of envy now. Repent from your asserting that one way would be better than what He has planned for you. Now as a humble sheep follow the Great Shepherd of the sheep. He will faithfully lead you. That is all that is necessary.
• 1 Peter 2:21-25 & Application of Suffering to a Christian’s life
Peter clearly used Jesus’ example to affirm the way the Christian must endure suffering. Read the whole book and notice how Peter uses this logic to give pastoral advice to different groups in the church there. How would you apply it to people in your own context today?
• Reflection on persecution and suffering
John Wesley reviewed his past 16 or 18 years and remembered one man showing forth God’s grace. Reflect on your own suffering. What if you ended up as this man? Would you be faithful to the Lord? Make an appropriate commitment to the Lord.
“God had ‘shed abroad his love in his heart.” “He was expelled out of his society as a madman; and, being disowned by his friends and despised and forsaken of all men, lived obscure and unknown for a few months, and then went to Him whom his soul loved.” (The Journal of John Wesley, Moody Press, pp. 85).
• Examine the scriptural teaching on ‘Dying to self.’
Examine the devotion witnessed in Philippians 2:19-29. From each of the two cases below: Share what was their circumstance. What made the situation so special? What attitudes toward suffering and hardship did they show through their responses? Pick out one circumstance in your own life in which you can learn from them (either past, present or possible future is okay).
a) Timothy (2:19-24)
b) Epaphroditus (2:25-29)
• Deepening ones theology of suffering
The Book of Job helps us to understand how and why righteous people suffer. Go through Job and answer the follow questions in essay form.
1) Who causes the hardships that come upon the righteous?
2) What is God’s part in each stage of the suffering process?
• Understanding and applying ‘suffering’ scripture passages
Many scriptures speak about suffering. We need to notice them and apply them to our own lives. Psalm 84 :5-7 is a typical example of a passage you might read in your devotions. Notice the whole context of suffering. Usually it starts off positive, goes through difficult times and then returns back to praises.
From strength to strength. Sounds great but do you see what is in the middle? Verse 6. They pass through the valley of Baca meaning ‘weeping.’ The strong man of God is not one which is removed from life’s difficulties but one that rightly faces them. Choosing to leave the responsibilities of life for an ascetic lifestyle is not strength but weakness. It is much more difficult to stay faithful within our relationships and responsibilities. This is God’s will for us. Think of a time you went through such a time. Did you every understand God’s care for you in that situation? How would you counsel another person going through a difficult time with this passage in mind?
D. Willingly and Innocently Suffered (Isaiah 53:7-9)
1. Verse 53:7 best describes what part of Jesus’ life? Explain.
2. Rewrite 53:8 in your own words. List the oppressive acts that took place before His death. Search and see if anyone understood why Jesus died (He died for His people’s sins). Explain how this misunderstanding of a person's life work is hard to take.
3. Jesus had no permanent site for a burial. It was as if He belonged to no one. How did 9ab literally come true? Is this a fit way to bury an upright and godly leader? Why is this important?
4. Jesus was terribly humiliated through his death on the cross. Share and pray together about situations we might need to experience humbling times in order to faithfully serve others even if they don't appreciate our faithfulness. You might refer to other scriptural figures like Joseph, Daniel and Jeremiah.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom
By Paul J. Bucknell