Mining for gold, sliver and other important minerals and materials has always been a dangerous occupation. Through the years, thousands of miners have died in cave-ins, explosions, faulty equipment, the misuse of equipment and dozens of other causes. One danger they face is the seepage of gases into the confined area of the mine. Some natural gases are combustible, and under certain conditions there have been horrendous explosions. Sometimes those gases don’t immediately explode, but they can slowly build up, poisoning the miners.
One such doubly dangerous gas is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas which when inhaled can replace the oxygen in a person’s blood thereby causing cell and tissue damage and eventually death. Carbon monoxide is often produced by the inefficient burning of carbon fuels like coal and gasoline. But coal itself can produce monoxide naturally, and the mining of coal releases it into the air. In addition to other toxic results for coal miners, multitudes have died by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In 1895 John Scott Haldane, in England, proposed that miners use an early warning system to detect the presence of that gas. The idea was so successful that the following year, coal miners began taking canaries into their mines. The birds, being small and with more rapid metabolisms, became sick before the miners did, if there was too much carbon monoxide in the air. When the miners saw their early warning systems go down, they immediately escaped into fresh air.
There is a problem in modern Christianity which is as spiritually deadly as carbon monoxide. Many, if not most of professing Christians, don’t recognize it, because it is odorless, colorless and tasteless. I’m talking about the shift in ecclesiastical purpose from exposing sin and declaring its solution, to the warm and fuzzy Christianity of varieties of the “prosperity gospel.” When pastors and missionary evangelists tell people that Christ came into the world to make their lives better, richer, fuller, and to ease their sinful consciences, there is poison in the air. When preachers tell people they can blend their worldliness with Christ’s sacrifice, there is poison in the air. When pastors and missionaries present philosophies and spiritual options rather than Biblical absolutes like, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” and “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” there is poison in the air.
This morning, I’d like to show you a little yellow canary who is living throughout the New Testament. When this canary goes down, everyone in the vicinity is going to eventually go down as well. I am speaking of the theme of the bleeding, dying Saviour – “Christ SUFFERED for us” – verse 21. Now, I’m not saying that the “name it and claim it” preachers, the mega-church pastors, and the “prosperity gospel” preachers don’t sometimes say that Christ suffered for us. But they often say it in the context of: “since Jesus suffered, you don’t have to.” “If you have sufficient faith, you can have heaven here on earth.”
But I need to point out, “For even hereunto were YE called: because CHRIST also SUFFERED for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps,” and the context is clearly talking about Christian suffering. The child of God has not been promised a rose garden or a Garden of Eden in this world. In the fifth chapter Peter says, “But the God of all grace, who hath called you unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that YE have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The Bible tells us to expect the same treatment which our Saviour received, if indeed we are living the way in which He did; if we are going to live like Christians. There is an eternity of peace with God and blessing after blessing, but life in this world of sin may not be so blessed. In my last two messages, I dealt with living according to Christ’s example. This morning I want leave that subject to focus on the canary, the actual sufferings of Christ. Chapter 1, verse 2 speaks of the “sprinkling of the BLOOD of Jesus Christ.” Jesus shed literal blood. In Peter’s next verse he speaks of Jesus’ resurrection, which implies that first He died. Verse 11 says that the Old Testament prophets searched diligently into the subject of “the SUFFERINGS of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” He says in verse 19 that true Christians, have been redeemed “with the precious BLOOD of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” and then he makes another reference to Jesus’ resurrection. Skipping over our text, Peter says in chapter 3, “Christ also hath once SUFFERED for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” – (3:18). I Peter 4:1 – “Forasmuch then as Christ hath SUFFERED for us in the flesh…” go on to live for Him. And then verse 13 once again speaks of the sufferings of Christ.
If during a two or three week span you don’t hear a reference to the sufferings, the death, or the shed blood of Christ, come to me and point out my dereliction of duty. Peter often referred to Jesus’ sufferings, and so did Paul, James and the writer of Hebrews. My point is this: as often as we find the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus in the Word of God, we are thereby commissioned to make this subject just as prominent in our ministry. When this canary goes down, that church is doomed to die. As Christ said to the church in Ephesus, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” And as He implied to one of the other churches, “because thou art lukewarm (in your love and in your doctrine)… I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
My doctrine and my outline this morning is rather simple: We’ll consider WHAT it was Jesus suffered and WHY He suffered. Then we’ll examine for WHOM it was that He suffered.
WHAT was it that the Lord Jesus suffered while He was here on earth?
Keep in mind that I am talking about the eternal Son of God, which is amazing in itself. But perhaps even more awe inspiring is the fact that this is the Creator of the Universe. The man who died on the cross was the God of all things residing in human flesh. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh…” – II Timothy 3:16.
What was it that the Son of God suffered? First of all, He was reviled. “Reviled,” what does that mean? It means that people verbally abused Him, calling Him names and ascribing to Him things which were not true.
As an adult, have YOU ever been reviled? Kids do it to each other all the time, but not so much as adults. The Jews, who hated Christ, tried to hurt Him by saying that He was nothing but a low-life Samaritan. How would you feel, if someone came up to you and called you a “nigger,” a “spick” or a “wop”? For a Jew to be accused of being a Samaritan was just about that low and filthy. But that backfired, because Jesus loved the Samaritans, and He was the first to give them the gospel. When that didn’t work His enemies accused our Saviour of being possessed by Satan. How would feel if someone accused you, at this moment, of being drunk, or high on meth? When people hate other people, they sometimes stoop to saying the most hateful and stupid of things.
Peter tells us that our Saviour was reviled, but He reviled not again. That went on throughout His ministry and even up onto the cross. Matthew tells us that while Christ was crucified, “They that passed by reviled him… saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Mark describes the same scene and says that the passersby “railed” on Him. They vilified and blasphemed Him. “Railed” is the Greek word “blasphemeo.”
Verse 24 points out that Jesus’ sufferings were not confined to verbal abuse and blasphemy. “Who his own self bare our sins in his OWN BODY on the tree.” Have you ever been severely burned? I’m not talking about a bad sun burn, but a burn from a fire. It was your body which felt the pain, and that pain may have been intense. Have you ever had your flesh ripped open by a jagged piece of glass or a dull knife? Perhaps you went immediately into shock, and you didn’t feel much pain at the time, but that didn’t last long. Have you ever had one of the major bones in your body violently broken? Your femur for example. The pain was felt in your body – throughout your entire body. You know what bodily pain is. We know a bit about pain, but none of us have ever experienced the physical agony which Jesus endured.
We have to turn to Isaiah for some of the details of that pain. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” To be wounded is to have something driven into the flesh; to be gouged or drilled through the skin and into the flesh and muscle. The Lord Jesus had nails bored into his hands and feet, and He was gored with the point of a spear. When the second nail was driven into His opposite hand, the pain probably felt twice as bad as the first, but then came the third and possibly a fourth. Jesus had thorns pressed down through the skin on his scalp, stabbing a multitude of nerves. “He was bruised for our iniquities – our sins.” We have all been bruised at one time or other. We all know what a subcutaneous bruise feels like. A bruise is caused by the breaking, or crushing, of blood vessels underneath the skin. Usually it is little more than a mild irritation and discoloration, but when there is a great deal of blood involved, it causes swelling and intensifies the pain. The more misplaced blood the more pain. But there are three kinds of bruises, the second and third are intramuscular and periosteal bruises. These second and third degree bruises are caused by blood pouring out inside muscle tissue or even more deeply around bone. These are far more painful than a slight bruise on the surface of the skin. I have no proof, but I am certain that the bruises which my Saviour received were deep and painful.
Isaiah 50:6 prophesies that the back of Christ would be given to the smiters – the beaters. And when we get to the New Testament we see that the men beating Him were professional soldiers and temple guards. Even if they didn’t use tools like clubs, they were proficient enough to cause considerable damage and bruising with nothing more than their fists. Matthew 26:67 – “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with palms of their hands…” Do you remember what I said last week about the word “buffet?” Its root word is “fist.” Those brutes “fisted” the Saviour. And some of them slapped His face with the palms of their hands.
But they used more than their hands and fists. The word “smite” is sometimes translated “stripe.” I Peter 2:24 – “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.” Bruises don’t usually appear as stripes. Perhaps a club at the right angle might, but there is something else. That word points to the fulfilment of Jesus’ own prophecy in Mark 10:24 – “they shall mock (me), and shall SCOURGE (me), and shall spit upon (me), and shall kill (me): and the third day (I) shall rise again.” Jesus’ suffering at some point included the use of whips. He was flogged or flailed.
Two other things which Isaiah 50:6 prophesies is hair pulling and spitting. “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.” It makes perfect sense to picture those hate-filled brutes grabbing Jesus by His beard and yanking His face this way and that, to the point of actually pulling out the hair and the skin underneath. I remind you that Isaiah said chapters 52 and 53, “His visage (appearance) was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” The Lord’s face was so well beaten that it may have been almost unrecognizable. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.” “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted.” His soul was in as much pain as His body. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.”
Have you noticed how many times in the New Testament scriptures there has been the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy about people spitting on Christ? Spitting on Christ is mentioned twice in Matthew, three times in Mark and once in Luke. It may be acceptable in some cultures, but it is absolutely revolting to me to be spit upon.
I am not able to put into words the suffering which our Saviour endured for my salvation. Perhaps some more eloquent man could describe it more vividly, but I cannot. And yet there it is in God’s Word, and it must come up in our preaching or our gospel will die.
WHY did He suffer? WHY did He endure that grief and pain?
Peter tells us in verse 24 – “Who his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree..” The word “bare” is an interesting Greek word. It obviously means “to carry something.” Jesus picked up and carried our sins on His back. But the Bible often uses that word in a special way, and in that regard it is sometimes translated differently. Look for an example at verse 5, “Ye also, as lively stone, are build up a spiritual house, and holy priesthood, to OFFER UP spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” The word which Peter uses in verse 24, “bare” is translated in verse 5 as “to offer up.” The idea is to carry an offering to the altar for sacrifice. It is used that way several times in Hebrews. Hebrews 9:28 is one example: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” James uses that word when talking about Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac. Why did Jesus endure such contradiction of sinners (Hebrews 12:3)? So that He could bear the sins of those He intended to save up to the altar – to make an atonement for sin.
In chapter 3, Peter puts Jesus’ sufferings in another context – “For Christ also hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” Why did Jesus suffer? Because that was the only way for sinners like us to be reconciled to God. Our sins have separated us from our Creator, the holy God – Isaiah 59:2. There is no amount of positive service nor any number of good works which can remove our sin nature or reverse the damage caused by our iniquities. There is no church that we can join… no religious ceremony we can pass through to open the doorway into the presence of the Lord. You can be baptized in every river, pond and creek from here to Louisiana, ‘til every crawdad knows you by your first name, but this will not restore you to God. It is only through the sufferings – the shed blood and the death of the Lord Jesus – that we can be reconciled to God.
The writer to the Hebrews addresses the purpose of the Lord’s sufferings in another way. Please turn to Hebrews 2:9 – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death…” Jesus Christ, the infinite Son of God, the Second Person of the God-head, became incarnate and lived amidst His creation. And in becoming the God/man, and a little lower than the angels, He became capable of suffering and death. He came into this world in order to suffer death. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Christ became the captain of salvation through His sufferings. It is because He suffered that He can bestow salvation on those who trust Him. “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren…” Christ suffered, tasting death in order to bring many sons unto glory and to sanctify them. For which cause he is not ashamed to call us His brethren. Hebrew 13:12 adds, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate,” referring to Calvary which was just outside the city of Jerusalem.
Why did Christ Jesus willingly suffer such horrendous abuse and even death? To provide salvation for sinners like us. To make the heirs, or recipients, of salvation perfect through His sufferings. To sanctify them, setting apart those many people He intended to save.
For WHOM did he suffer these terrible things?
Christ tasted death for every one of those people He saves. He literally bore their sins to God’s altar. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” speaking of the wooden cross at Calvary. Then Peter adds, “For ye were as sheep going astray.”
John 10 is Jesus’ great exposition on the Shepherd and His sheep. In that chapter, Christ declares that He is both the Shepherd and the door to the sheepfold. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep,” and later He speaks of those sheep as belonging to Him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish…” By what right can He give to His sheep eternal life? He can do so, because He suffered and died for them. And as is taught here in Peter and elsewhere: He bore their sins to Calvary – God’s altar. Christ specifically died for each and every one of His sheep.
As I said in earlier messages that Christ did not suffer as an example for us to follow into Heaven or salvation. Yes, He left us an example of suffering, but we can’t suffer sufficiently for our own redemption. The example is about how we are to live in this world which so hates our Saviour. The reason He suffered, bled and died, was for the salvation of His chosen sheep. He died to sanctify sinners; not potentially but in reality. He died to redeem the lost; not to make them redeemable, but to actually purchase their salvation. He died in order to save their souls.
The question is: did He suffer for your salvation? I can’t answer that question for you, but you can. The Bible declares that whoever willingly turns from his sin, putting his trust in what Christ suffered, may with assurance believe that Jesus died to save his or her soul. If the Lord gives you sufficient faith to trust the sacrifice Christ made on the Cross, then you may be assured that Jesus died for your redemption – your salvation from sin. I implore you this morning – repent before God, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved – delivered and forgiven of all your sins.