And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
There are many prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah, some of which describe the suffering that he would endure. In Psalm 22, David’s prayer depicts the anguish that Jesus would experience in his death. Notice how accurately this foretells the words and experience of Jesus:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? … But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones; they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:1, 6-8, 14-18).
This psalm was written about six hundred years before Jesus was born, before crucifixion was even invented. So when Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was revealing himself as the Messiah. But more than that, he cried out because the pain of abandonment was overwhelming. What he had tasted in the garden was now being poured out in its fullness upon the beloved Son.
Jesus suffered more than anyone has ever suffered. If you experienced the wrath of God against sin in this way, it would still not approach the degree of suffering that Jesus endured. He had never experienced sin or separation from God and he bore the entirety of humanity’s sin on the cross. No one has ever suffered like Jesus suffered.
We also see here that nobody has ever obeyed like Jesus obeyed. He turned to God even while he was being condemned. He was faithful even while being forsaken. No one has ever trusted and obeyed like this.
Jesus is described as a worm and not a man. This is an interesting metaphor in the context of persecution. When I am insulted or accused or mocked, my inclination is to defend myself. The human tendency is to be annoyed, envious, resentful, anxious, and proud. We are not like worms. We are more like a snake that rears up and strikes back. But Jesus is a worm and not a man. He was willing to let men tread on him. He did not strike back or defend himself. He went humbly and willingly to the cross.
Why did he do this? Because he had his mind set on something else.
Those who have their minds set on earthly things are, in Paul’s words, “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). This phrase indicates that those who spurn suffering and make their primary aim comfort, success, and pleasure are at odds with the cross of Christ, the very symbol of his suffering. To shun our suffering is to shun his. To embrace his suffering is to embrace our own. Paul’s deepest desire was “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (3:10).
For this to become our deepest desire, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). So meditate on his life. Let the magnitude of his sacrifice sink in. Let the pain of his suffering be real to you. Let his victory be a groundswell of hope in your soul. Indeed, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Have you felt abandoned or forsaken by God? Have you felt mocked or persecuted by others? How have you tried to find comfort?
Strengthen me against temptations. My heart is an unexhausted fountain of sin, flowing on in every pattern of behaviour; Thou hast disarmed me of the means in which I trusted, and I have no strength but in thee. Thou alone canst hold back my evil ways, but without thy grace to sustain me I fall. Keep me sensible of my weakness, and of my dependence upon thy strength. Let every trial teach me more of thy peace, more of thy love. Thy Holy Spirit is given to increase thy graces, and I cannot preserve or improve them unless he works continually in me. May he confirm my trust in thy promised help, and let me walk humbly in dependence upon thee, for Jesus’ sake.