When I think about the sufferings of Christ, the first thing that comes to mind is His suffering leading up to the cross - being scourged by the Roman soldiers, beaten with sticks & fists, forcibly being fitted with a crown of Jerusalem thorns... & finally being nailed to the cross.
But Jesus' suffering wasn't limited to the cross... in doing a little digging, you can see that His suffering was something that was experienced in every area of life. I re-read Isaiah 53 the well known prophecy about the 'suffering servant', a passage that foretold the suffering of Christ on the cross. However, something else in the passage caught my eye:
My servant grew up in the LORD’S presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. vv2,3
He was despised and rejected? Acquainted with the bitterest grief? I dug some more - & read through the gospels doing a word search for "rejection" & "suffering" - what I found was:
Other thoughts race through my mind - Jesus' family thought He was crazy, out of His mind, & came to Him while He was teaching in order to "put Him away..."
After pouring His life out for 3 years to His disciples, one of them, Judas Iscariot, betrays Him to the Jewish leaders/Roman soldiers for 30 pieces of silver, the going price for an ox. An ox! The Son of God sold for the price of livestock. On top of that, when He was arrested, every one of His disciples ran away from Him, abandoning Him. Worse, when confronted with the opportunity to be associated with Jesus, Simon Peter denied that he even knew Jesus, 3 separate times. To a servant girl.
In Romans 5, we're encouraged that we should "rejoice in our sufferings, because they produce in us endurance..." And Paul, a man well acquainted with suffering & rejection, reminds us in 8:18 that the sufferings of this present time, any & everything we go through, is not even worth comparing with the glory that is awaiting us in Christ... He even says:
I want to know Christ & the power of His resurrection & the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like Him in His death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead... Philippians 3:10
He wants to know Christ - even if... WHEN it means the sharing of the same sufferings Christ endured.
Later, Peter, the same Peter who betrayed Jesus Christ, writes to Christ-followers going through life's wringer, saying:
Do not be surprised at the fiery trial taking place – to test you– as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so you may be glad & shout for joy when His glory is revealed. If you are rejected & hated for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you... if you suffer as a Christ-follower, rejoice, because you bear His name...
The rejection & suffering that Christ endured went far beyond the cross - & often came at the hands of those He knew best, those closest to Him - His family & the people in His hometown.
It gives me great courage & encouragement, peace & faith, to know that Christ endured this type of rejection as well, being hated, & reviled, abandoned, & denied... & He endured to the end, through it all, & gives us an example to follow - one filled with grace, healing, restoration, & life.
Rejection hurts -& we're promised suffering if/since we follow Christ... yet in the middle of all of it, God gives us grace to endure; to persevere. To bring glory to Him.