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Gone before us in suffering

Gone before us in suffering Written by Bill Bradford

Gone before us in suffering

I was listening to an ABC program this morning about caring for dementia patients. It was observed that some younger professional carers in institutional work may not give the same care to a dementia patient as an older carer, because they, being full of health and vitality, may not understand that their needs are just as valid as a person without dementia. I couldn’t help but think about the willingness of Jesus Christ to walk in our shoes.

The incredible mind of God shown through Jesus Christ is remarkable to ponder. When Paul contemplated John’s statement: “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) he was able to describe one of the great reasons the Father sent the Word to become one of us. We tend to think that He came to die for us and pay the price for our sins. The Bible says that emphatically. But, by coming as a human and dying for us, He experienced something all will experience - death. Because of who He was, He is able to save us from death (eternal death) because He died for us, paying the punishment for sin. We observe this in the Passover service.

The point here is that, in becoming a man, He also understands human weaknesses and needs. There are so many scriptures that speak of the kind of love and support He gives to us. But didn’t He understand them before He became a son of man? Of course, He did. Now He understands them because He experienced them Himself. There is a difference.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15a).

It explicitly says that He is a High Priest who can be moved by our infirmities. He understands pain and suffering. In fact He describes His own pain and suffering that He would experience in several places in the Bible. Isaiah 52 and 53, Psalm 16 and Psalm 22 all speak of the suffering He experienced in this life, not only in terms of physical pain at the end, but rejection and vilification throughout His life. They considered Him an outlaw at the end and an enemy of the Jewish people. In the end, He faced the most horrendous temptations. He was reviled, Peter tells us, and He reviled not in return. He was tempted on all points, as what any human would experience.

No matter how bad it gets, there is someone there to see us through. Jesus experienced help from the Father in His most extreme circumstance. This is the person you want to have to make intercession for us. He’s been there.

“Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). When He makes intercession for us He is standing on the right side of God.

The experience was necessary, not just to suffer for our sins. You and I have to know that He understands and has gone before us in suffering. We have to know He passed through the suffering, without sin, and accepted God’s will.

This is the hardest thing for a person to do. When you consider who He was and that He was willing to subject Himself to the temptations and sufferings of this life for a reason that had us in mind. Cynical and self-centered humans have to know there is one who can be touched. I will never leave you (leave you as orphans) He says to his disciples. Have we ever known anyone so faithful as this?

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  • About the Author

    Bill Bradford

    Bill Bradford

    Bill Bradford is a contributor to United Church of God publications in addition to being the pastor for several United Church of God congregations in Queensland, Australia.

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