Emotions can dominate us to such an extent that we cease to function. It is foolish to underestimate the role emotions play in our decisions, temptations and trials.
When considering Christ’s sacrifice, we tend to narrow our focus upon the crucifixion. Why? Because it is the most relevant aspect of His sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood and death upon the tree, there would be no atonement for sin.
Likewise, of the many things Christ experienced the day of His death, we most readily relate with the physical element of His suffering. Most of us were introduced to physical pain at a very early age. As children, scrapes, cuts, stings and burns were physical sensations we experienced. As children, most of us determined that physical pain was something to be avoided.
The many physical torments we experience while growing up, naturally prepare us to better relate with the physical suffering of Christ. When we hear of saliva splattered upon His face, a punch to the head, the ripping lash of the whip, thorns and nails driven into the tenderness of His flesh, and lungs burning with every gasp, it is easy to cringe and hurt for our Lord. Why? because pain is pain. A little pain can go a long way in helping us better relate to someone else’s pain.
Sadly, far too often when recalling Christ’s sacrifice, we reflect merely upon His physical suffering while omitting the emotional. Why? In part it is due to the difficulty in quantifying emotional pain. Each of us relates to emotional stress and discomfort differently. One person’s fear is another person’s laughter. That which breaks one person emotionally is nothing more than a challenge to another.
Physical suffering is related to quickly, while emotional suffering demands a great deal of heartfelt thought. Nevertheless, when we fail to embrace the emotional suffering Christ endured, we strip Him of the very thing that distinguishes man from fish, insects, birds and animals. Given the role of emotional suffering, this leads us to ask the question, how did Christ suffer emotionally?
ENVELOP OF EVIL
The emotional trials began when Christ allowed Himself to be overcome by the envelope of evil surrounding Him. This becomes apparent just prior to His incarceration, when the “chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders” went to the Mount of Olives to capture Jesus. We see in Luke 22:52-53, Jesus said to the temple leaders, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” The power of darkness, the envelope of evil, used by Satan to overcome all that is good, controls the hearts and minds of the godless. On the mount, the servants of darkness strive to overcome Jesus, failing to acknowledge the Messiah in their midst.
Surely, the very men Jesus vigorously opposed in public, did not frighten Him in private. Nonetheless, as Jesus gave Himself over to the power of darkness, this clearly troubled Him.
One can best understand the extent to which Jesus was emotionally unsettled when they read Luke 22:41-45. There it says, “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Interestingly enough, blood was first shed not by whip or nail, but as the result of emotional stress exacted upon the heart of the Anointed One. The role emotion played in Christ’s final hours cannot be overemphasized. The Lord was so overwhelmed by the coming events, scripture says He was in “agony.” This great pain of heart led Him to “earnestly” petition for a viable alternative to the trauma about to unfold.
ACTS OF BETRAYAL
Has someone ever betrayed your trust? The greater the offense, the greater the hurt. The closer the relationship, the deeper the pain.
Those who have experienced the sting of betrayal, to some degree can understand how difficult it is to deal with the emotions surrounding such an experience. Yet, when it comes to the betrayal of Jesus, few, if any can relate to the emotional torment He endured.
During the last hours of His life, the number of people who in part betrayed Jesus is phenomenal. Of all those who betrayed Christ, the one who tends to stand out among the rest is Judas. Judas was a very special person in the life of Christ. Jesus personally selected him as an apostle. He likewise invested a great deal of time and energy in training Judas for service.
Luke 22:47-48 “And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. 48 But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'”
Another important figure that comes to mind is Peter. Like Judas, Peter was selected by Christ Himself to be an apostle. Peter was distinct in that he was part of Jesus’ inner circle. Of the twelve apostles, Peter, James, and John were allowed to take part in special events such as viewing Christ’s meeting with Moses and Elijah, and escorting Christ to the garden, the night of His capture.
Luke 23:20-25 “Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, ‘This man was also with Him.’ 57 But he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.'”
Even though Jesus knew both Judas and Peter would betray His trust, it must have been emotionally traumatic to see two men that you hand-picked and trained, turn their backs on you.
When it comes to the betrayal of Christ, there are three specific groups of people who tend to be overlooked. The first group is the religious leaders of Israel. In Luke 22:52, the Bible notes their involvement with the capture of Christ when it says, “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, ‘Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs?'” Clearly, these men were central figures in the capture and ultimate death of Christ.
In what way did the religious leaders betray Christ? They were keepers of the Law, and men who were expected to look in anticipation for the Messiah’s coming. The Bible says in Daniel 9:25-26, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.” As defenders of the Law, these men should not have been pursuing Christ as a common thief, but defending Him as the anointed One of God the Father. Rather than upholding their sacred trust, the religious leaders turned their back on it. By turning their back on their trust, they turned their back on the Messiah.
When considering the acts of betrayal, the government must be considered a betrayer as well. In Luke 23:20-25, scripture says, “So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. 25 And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Who was Pilate? He was the man commissioned by Rome to act as governor over that part of the empire. It was his job to help maintain law and order.
How is it that someone who never accepted the religious teachings of the Old Testament and never became a follower of Christ, betrayed Him? We find the answer in Romans 13:1-4, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good.”
The Bible says that God appoints secular authorities in their positions to act as ministers for good. They are responsible for punishing the lawless and upholding the innocent. When Pilate turned his back on Christ, he betrayed the sacred trust committed to him by God.
Pilate knew that Christ was guiltless, yet he allowed the mob to have its way. Pilate was so certain Christ was innocent, he tried to “wash” his hands of His blood. By publicly recognizing Christ’s innocence, Pilate sealed his fait as one of many who betrayed Christ’s trust on the day of His death.
The last group to betray Christ was the people themselves. On the day of Christ’s death, the hearts of the people were swayed to cry out in Luke 23:20, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Just a week earlier, some of those who cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” surely cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the Highest!”(Matthew 21:9) Like so many others, the depth of their commitment was skin deep. As easily as they could get caught up in the moment of praise, they could likewise get caught up in condemnation.
It is naive to think that so many acts of betrayal did not have an emotional impact on Christ. When men you chose to take part in your ministry turn their backs on you, it hurts. When leaders entrusted to recognize and uphold that which is right turn their back on you, it hurts. When those who exalt you seek your demise, it hurts.
The many acts of betrayal Christ experienced had to have an emotional impact on Him. Why? Because He was not some emotionless drone. He had, and expressed, real emotions. When someone, even unknowingly breaks our trust, it hurts.
SEPARATION FROM HIS MOTHER
They say the bond between a mother and her child is one of the strongest known to men. Great warriors who could not be humbled by their enemies, have continually submitted to the gentle pleas of their mother–Jesus was no different than any other son. When his mother spoke, Jesus listened.
John 2:1-8 “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘they have no wine.’ 4 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5 His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.”
When mom spoke, even though Jesus did not want to fulfill His mother’s request, He did. Christ obeyed His mother out of honor for her. Christ not only honored her, but loved her as well. Jesus deeply respected and loved His mother to the point of performing a miracle before its time.We see the level of respect and love Jesus had for His mother in the last decision Jesus made prior to His death.
In John 19:25-27, it says, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ 27 Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
Jesus made certain His mother was properly cared for after His death. This was the clearest act of love He could express during His hour of need. Surely, the breaking of this lifelong bond had to bear some degree of emotional suffering for Jesus. Enough so, He delivered His mother into the loving hands of the disciple He loved, John.
WITNESSING THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS
Christ cared about His friends and loved them greatly. When the Lord went to the tomb of Lazarus, He wept. In John 11:32-37, it says, “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!'”
The Bible says, “when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” Jesus was not some cold-hearted stoic. Upon seeing others suffering, “He groaned in spirit and was troubled.” The suffering and pain of others caused Jesus to suffer. He suffered over the suffering of others, even though He knew in a few moments He would raise Lazarus from the dead and chase away the hurt and pain of His friends. Bearing witness to their suffering, no matter how short, caused Jesus to suffer as well!
If the momentary discomfort of His friends troubled the Lord, how much greater the pain when He looked upon the tears and broken hearts of those who bore witness to the cross.
Amid the terrible humiliation, pain and suffering Jesus endured, His heart went out to those who suffered, because of His suffering. In Luke 23:26-31, it says, “Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. 27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. 28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!'”
Surely, as Christ was engulfed in pain, humiliation and controversy, His gentle eyes looked upon His bewildered friends–friends who thought they found the truth–friends who gave up everything to embrace it–friends who were suffering as the light of life was being extinguished. Surely, Christ was troubled over the suffering and pain His friends bore because of Him.
SEPARATION FROM THE FATHER
Twice during His ordeal, Jesus cried out in despair. The first time was in the garden when He asked His Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him. The second time was while on the cross when He realized His Father had turned away from Him.
The greatest emotional trial the Lord underwent on the day of His death was the separation He felt from the Father. In Matthew 27:46, it says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'”
Up to this point, Jesus handled the humiliation of a mock trial, the insults and beatings as well. Up to this point Jesus even handled the cruel punishment of the cross. Yet the moment He grasped the absolute desolation brought on by the Father’s absence, He cried out like a frightened child, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Christ realized that physical torture was lowly and trite compared to the void spiritual and emotional emptiness bore.
As Jesus stood in the gap of good and evil, in order to create a bridge from spiritual death to eternal life, He not only suffered physically, but emotionally as well. Confronted by an envelope of evil, repeated acts of betrayal, separation from His beloved mother, witness to the suffering of others, and even separation from His Father, all of this, a life-saving gift for you and for me.
In the future, when we celebrate communion or Easter, let us never forget the depth of pain our Lord endured was physical and emotional. It was great, it was deep, it was painful, it was the means by which the sins of man would be fully paid for, that all who call upon His name shall be saved!