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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Suffering (2)

SUFFERING.—Suffering was not a mere accident in the career of Christ. Neither is it so in the life of any of His true followers. It came to Him in the fulfilment of His Divine mission. Just so must it come to all those who are co-workers with Him in the Kingdom of God. Therefore in the NT the sombre background of physical and spiritual suffering is never absent from the thought of the writers. St. Peter, perhaps more than any other, dwells upon it in its doctrinal and practical aspect, but all were profoundly impressed by the significance of Christ’s sufferings, and endeavoured to interpret the tribulations of His followers in the light of His own varied experiences.

1. Concerning the distressing events in the Master’s life, the NT gives us warrant for holding to several conclusions. We misinterpret the meaning of Christ’s entrance into humanity, if we limit His tribulations merely to the agony of the Passion. The bitter experiences of His last week were typical of the harsh events of His life as a whole. His emptying of Himself (Philippians 2:7) to become the humble partner of humanity in its struggle against sin and for holiness, was itself the acme of suffering. The Agony in the Garden and the terrors of the death on the Cross were but the last scenes in the drama of His humiliation. Nor must the intensity of His physical sufferings blind us to the reality of the woes of His spirit. With His Divine sensitiveness to selfishness and disobedience and hard-heartedness and unresponsiveness and sin, how poignant must have been the griefs which His sinless soul endured! For this ‘man of sorrows, acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3), every day must have been one of crucifixion. Against Him who came to destroy sin was displayed all the violence of which evil was capable. That He must needs suffer in His effort to accomplish His mission was the inevitable consequence of His Messiahship (Acts 26:23, Luke 24:26). But not by His mere sufferings did He redeem humanity. These, in themselves, were not necessary to His office as the ‘anointed One,’ out were the certain results of the lifework upon which He had entered. Only as He was willing to endure whatever human experiences might come to Him could He reveal the Father and help to turn men to righteousness, by showing them the enormity of sin (Hebrews 13:12). Against Him were displayed the fearful extremes to which sin would go in its effort to overcome good. But by this high discipline was His own spirit cultured (Hebrews 5:8); and through His heroic, victorious endurance of sin-imposed suffering did He become our High Priest, able to succour those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18, Hebrews 4:15). In this noble sense are the sufferings of Christ central to His gospel, so that St. Peter can justly call himself a witness of the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 5:1).

2. Nor are the followers of Christ to escape the experiences that came to Him (John 15:20). See art. Sorrow.

Charles W. Rishell.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Suffering (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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