Our Lord’s Entrance Into Suffering
May 3rd, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
OUR LORD’S ENTRANCE INTO SUFFERING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-3-81 10:50 a.m.
Now today, Our Lord’s Entrance into Suffering. It is mostly an exposition of passages in Hebrews 2, in Hebrews 4, in Hebrews 5, and in Hebrews 10: Our Lord’s Entrance into Suffering.
In the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews, beginning at verse 9:
We see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels—made a man—for the suffering of death… 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.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, Satan, the devil;
And deliver us who through fear of death are all our lifetime subject to bondage.
[Hebrews 2:9, 10, 14, 15]
The word, so descriptive here of our Lord: “He was made a little lower than the angels”—made a man, made like us—“that by the grace of God He should taste death for every man. For in bringing many sons unto glory, the captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering” [Hebrews 2:9-10].
In the fifth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, 7 and 8:
In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears…
Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered;
And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that accept Him, that believe in Him, that trust Him, that obey Him.
You see here that word “perfect,”
By the grace of God the captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering:
And though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered;
And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation for all of us who will accept Him.
To us, the word “perfect” means “sinless, moral perfection.” But it has no connotation like that at all in the word translated “perfect” [Hebrews 5:9]. The Greek word is teleios. And I have prepared an exegetical study of the word teleios in its substantive, in its verbal, in its adjectival, in its adverbial form. And I haven’t opportunity to present it for lack of time.
One of the heartaches I have in my studying—and much studying and preparing and much preparing—I’d say ninety percent of everything that I prepare I don’t have time to present. That’s why, so often, I speak of that Criswell planet God’s going to give me where we don’t have to watch time and I can just preach forever, world without end.
Teleios, this word translated “perfect,” teleios means “the fulfillment of the purpose for which a thing was made.” For example, an oak tree is the teleios of an acorn. An acorn was made purposely to grow into a tree. So the tree is the teleios of the acorn. It has achieved the purpose for which the acorn is made.
A man is a teleios of a boy. If the lad stayed a boy, it would be tragic. He’d be stunted. He would not reach the goal for which God made him. A man is a teleios of a boy. When the boy reaches the purpose for which God made him, he is perfected. In the Greek thought, He is a teleios. He’s accomplished the purpose for which God made him.
Now, when that word is applied to our Lord Christ: “it pleased God to make the captain of our salvation perfect” [Hebrews 5:9]. The verbal form teleioō “through suffering.” “For though He were a Son, learning obedience by the things which He suffered, and being made teleioō,” having accomplished the purpose that God planned for Him, which plan was that our Lord should be our Savior through suffering [Hebrews 5:8-9].
That’s why He came into the world. He came into the world to suffer and to die in order that, having achieved the purpose—teleios—He would be the author of an eternal salvation for us who receive His loving grace and the pardon of our sins in Him [Hebrews 5:8-9].
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, there is a magnificent discussion of the purpose that our Lord achieved for us: the teleios. It says in verse 4: “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” All they do, the author says, is just remind us, every time they are sacrificed, of our sins [Hebrews 10:4]. They had to be repeated again and again because they were not able to wash away sins [Hebrews 10:1-3]. But our Lord was sacrificed once for all [Hebrews 10:12-14]. There is power in the blood [Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 12:11].
And in the fifth verse, he says that, “Those sacrifices and those offerings that could not wash away our sins, a body God prepared for Me—for the Lord Christ” [Hebrews 10:5].
Now verse 7: “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do thy will, O God” [Hebrews 10:7]. He came into the world to fulfill the purpose of God for His life—to suffer, to die—that we might be saved [1 Timothy 1:15]. And when we think of our Lord’s entrance into suffering in the Gospel records, the agony of soul by which our Lord faced those days for which He came are poignantly described. As He stood at the threshold of the purpose, the teleios achieved—as He stood at the threshold of His assignment to suffer, He did it with distress and agony. In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, our Lord says, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I”—and the King James Version translates the word “straitened”—“and how am I straitened!” [Luke 12:50]. You could translate it, “How am I distressed!” or “How am I in agony until it be accomplished!”
In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, when the Greeks came to see Him [John 12:20-21], it brought to His mind the soon expiation by which He would offer Himself in suffering for the sins of the whole world. And He says—when those Greeks came, He says, “My Father, deliver Me from this hour.” Then, He adds, “But for this hour—for this purpose—came I into the world to be lifted up, to suffer, and to die” [John 12:27].
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when the disciples sought to defend Him, He said to Simon Peter, “Put up the sword. If I would, I could have twelve legions of angels—seventy-two thousands of angels—standing here by My side. But then, how would the purpose of God be fulfilled, the scriptural announcement of My coming into the world to die for sins?” [Matthew 26:52-54; Isaiah 53:1-12].
In the passage that we just read in the twenty-second chapter of Luke: “And being in an agony He prayed the more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” [Luke 22:44]. As our Lord entered into His assignment to suffer for our sins, He did so in agony of soul.
In the remarkable prophecy, I presume the greatest in the Old Testament, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, in verse 10, the prophet says, “God will make His soul an atonement for sin” [Isaiah 53:10]. And in the next verse it says, “And God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11]. It will be expiatory. God will receive it as being sufficient to wash away all of our sins. One of the sermons to come is entitled The Mystery of the Atonement—that, in Christ’s death, we have pardon and forgiveness of sin [Ephesians 1:7].
The prophecy, “God shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11]—I cannot enter into that: the travail of the soul of our God. “God shall make his soul an offering for sin” [Isaiah 53:10].
I can understand the crucifixion by reading, by pictures. But the travail of soul [Isaiah 53:11], I don’t know how to enter into it. As the Lord faced His assignment in suffering, He did so in an agony of spirit that’s beyond our comprehension or understanding. He lived in heaven. And the earth is so filled with death, and disease, and despair, and suffering, and sorrow, and tears, it must have been a choice of tremendous agony to leave so beautiful a kingdom and to come down to so dark an earth [Hebrews 10:5-14]. But He did so because we are here, and we are in the agony of death, and despair, and tears, and sorrow.
“God shall see of the travail of His soul” [Isaiah 53:11]. I can think of Him as the crown Prince of glory. Here, in the passage before, God said, “Let all the angels of heaven worship Him” [Hebrews 1:6]. So beautiful, so resplendent, iridescent, bright, brilliant, the worship of Jesus in heaven, that even Satan, the archangel into whose care God trusted the created world [2 Corinthians 4:4]—even Satan, the archangel, envied Him. And when pride arose in his heart—that he would be the one before whom all heaven bowed—that sin destroyed God’s universe [Isaiah 14:12-14]. But that’s our Lord in glory; all of heaven bowed before Him [Hebrews 1:6].
Can we imagine the agony of spirit when they bowed the knee before Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” in mockery? [Matthew 27:29]. Can we imagine the crown that was placed on His head made out of thorns? [Matthew 27:29] Or the scepter placed in His hand, a cheap reed? [Matthew 27:29]. Or the robe placed on His back, a cast-off garment some soldier found in the palace? [Matthew 27:28]. He who had been the object of the adoration of all the hosts of heaven [Hebrews 1:6], now mocked [Matthew 27:29]. What agony of soul! I can’t enter into it.
The face of the Son of God is the light and the glory of heaven: “They have no need of the sun or of the moon, for the light of the Lamb is the brightness of it” [Revelation 21:23]. “His face shown as the sun in its splendor” [Matthew 17:2]. Can you imagine the agony of soul when they covered His face with spittle? They spit upon Him [Matthew 27:30] . . . When they plucked out His beard, tore it off of His face? [Isaiah 50:6]. And when they smote Him with their hands, saying, “You, what is my name? Who is it that struck you?” [Matthew 26:67-68]. I can’t enter into it: the agony of soul of Him who sat upon the throne of glory [John 17:5], the God who created the world [John 1:1-3], and He is now nailed to a tree [1 Peter 2:24].
In the ancient time, they impaled their victims. That was the execution known in the centuries before. And in impaling, the victim died immediately. But on the cross, they remained there for hours and for days and sometimes days and days. I cannot enter into it. Thou shalt see—God “shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” [Isaiah 53:11]—our Lord’s entrance into suffering.
In this marvelous passage out of which I am expounding this message, the author of Hebrews gives three things that concern that teleios, that purpose that our Lord achieved when He came into this world to suffer. The first: he says that He came in suffering, in order that He might be identified with us, that He might be one with us. Verse 11 says, in chapter 2:
For both He that makes us holy and we who are made holy, we are one, therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren…
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same…
For verily He took not upon Him the nature of angels; but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham—the likeness of a man.
It behooved Him to be made likened to His brethren, in order that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest…
For in that He Himself hath suffered, He is able to succor us who suffer.
[Hebrews 2:11, 14, 16-18]
The first purpose, the Bible here says, for the coming of our Lord into the world to suffer, was to identify Himself with us, one of us, like us. As I think of that, and especially in the long years of my pastoral ministry, I do not know of a more common denominator of human life than tears, and sorrow, and suffering. The common denominator of life is not richness. So many of us are poor. It isn’t strength and health. So many of us are sick. It isn’t anything that I know of like the common denominator of suffering, sorrow, and tears.
The child cries and we say those are just childish tears. But to the child they are as real as ours, the broken-heartedness, or the disappointment, or the hurt, or the sorrow of a child. The tears of teenagers—all the poignancy of some of the hurt that they go through—their tears are as real as ours. And the tears of manhood and womanhood, the disappointments and the frustrations, the broken rainbow and broken dreams that we know in life, and the tears of separation and loneliness and old age and death.
He came to be made like one of us, that we might be one with Him [John 17:21-22; Hebrews 2:11]. Had He come into this world as the crown prince, living in a palace with a golden crown and a diamond scepter, how many of us would have felt comfortable in His presence? Had He come into this world as the head of the hosts of bright angels, how many of us would have felt “He understands me?”
But having come into the world poor, the friend of sinners [Matthew 11:19], beat, lonely, hungry, thirsty, we somehow find Him our Brother. He came to identify Himself with us [Hebrews 2:11]. And in His obedience, the Scriptures say here, “Though He were a Son, He learned submissiveness, being made teleios carrying out the will of God” [Hebrews 5:8].
And in how many ways do we need to be taught to be submissive in the harsh providences of life? Like in Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Or the words of our Savior: “The cup that the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” [John 18:11]. And in His suffering, He is our great, sympathizing High Priest. The author of Hebrews says so beautifully:
We have not an High Priest—an Intercessor, a Mediator in heaven—who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of trouble.
He knows all about the sorrows, and the frustrations, and the disappointments, and the tears of our lives. He is our Brother. Though He is God, He is our Brother. That was the first purpose, the author states, of His coming into the world: that He might identify Himself with us, to be one of us [Hebrews 2:11].
The second reason, the author says, for His coming into the world and the purpose—the perfection, the teleios, the achievement of His life, was: “To deliver us who through fear of death were all our lifetimes subject to the bondage of death” [Hebrews 2:15].
All of us have a twofold double-dread of death. One: we fear death instinctively. That fear we have in common with all of the animal kingdom. There is no creature that doesn’t seek to escape death. It will run. It will fight. We are like that in all of our animal nature. Instinctively, we dread the awesome approach of death.
We have another fear of death. What lies beyond death? If one will think of it, it is frightening. What lies beyond in that dark corridor beyond the River Styx, as the Greeks would philosophize about it? Beyond sheol and its shades, as the Hebrews would say it, what is that? What is ahead? What lies beyond the gates of death?
Our Savior came to deliver us from that bondage and fear [Hebrews 2:14-15]. In Him, in His victory over Death and the Grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], we now do not experience death. We are just translated through the open door into heaven [2 Corinthians 5:8]. It’s God’s way now of receiving us into Paradise. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven” [1 Corinthians 15:50]. As long as I am in this house of clay, I couldn’t even see God’s face, and live [Exodus 33:20].
Death now, because of the atoning sacrifice, the victory of Christ—death now is but the gate into heaven [John 11:25]. And how are those gates wrought and of what are they made? They are gates of pearl [Revelation 21:21]. And pearl is the only gem made out of the hurt and the wound of a little animal. Death is the gate into Paradise [Luke 23:42-43], into heaven, and it’s made out of pearl. Through suffering, we enter into the kingdom of God.
I had one of the most unusual things. I was in a crusade in Odessa, in West Texas, and one of the pastors had taken me to a little restaurant, a little coffee shop. And while he and I were visiting together, there came into the coffee shop a blind man. And he came over and sat down close to us and the pastor said to me—he said, “I want you to listen to that blind man as he prays.”
Before he ate, he asked the blessing out loud. And the pastor said to me, “Every time that blind man prays, he thanks God for his blindness.” And the pastor explained, “Before he was blind, he was a very wicked man, but in his blindness he was led to the Lord. And, you listen to Him pray. He’ll thank God for his blindness.”
My brethren and my sisters, God has some holy purpose for every sorrow that we experience in life. There’s a reason for it and God purposes some beautiful thing for us with it. And instead of rebelling and being bitter, whatever God shall send in His providence, let me accept it, and be humbled by it, and learn to lean upon the kind arm of God for strength.
Is not that heaven? “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain or tears, for these things are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4]. What would that mean to someone who had never cried, that there weren’t more tears? What would that mean to someone who had never suffered, that we weren’t hurt anymore? What would that mean to someone whose heart was never broken, that there is no more sorrow? What would that mean to someone who never knew what it was to face death?
It is in these providences of God, in which our Savior is a brother, that we come to know the riches of the depths and the height and the breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 3:17-19]. That’s why He came to suffer [Hebrews 5:8].
And last, this third thing here:
We see Jesus, made like a man, a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death… that by the grace of God He should taste death for every man.
For it became Him, for whom are all things… in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.
[Hebrews 2: 9, 10]
Do you see the imagery of that? The great throng that our Lord is leading into heaven, into Paradise, is a throng that He has saved by virtue of His tears, and sobs, and suffering, and death. It’s that kind of a sainted throng that He is leading into heaven. He calls them, “Leading the many sons of glory” [Hebrews 2:10].
O Lord, every pilgrim company must have a great heart. Every army must have a general or a captain. Every exodus must have a Moses. And, in leading the saints of God into heaven, we have a great Savior and captain of our salvation [Hebrews 2:10].
In Ephesians chapter 4, verse 8, there is a magnificent imagery comparing the entrance of our Lord with His people into heaven to a Roman triumph: “He hath ascended on high, carrying captivity captive” [Ephesians 4:8]. Satan is chained to His chariot wheel. And accompanying the Lord into glory are the saints He has won, the people for whom He has died, the souls that He has saved [John 14:3].
And in that great throng leading us into heaven, there are the sinners, there are the blind, there are the crippled, there are the hurt, there are the sorrowing, there are the weeping, there are the repentant. These are the saints that the Lord has carried—is carrying—into glory.
Sweet people, in my reading, I came across something that just simply blessed my heart. It’s about a physician, a doctor, an American doctor. His name is not named in the book that I read. But his funeral was described, and this was it. “When he was buried,” the article said, “the funeral car that carried him was attended by sixty pallbearers, each one of whom owed his life to that beloved physician. And behind the pallbearers’ cars”—I’m putting my own language in it. This is something that happened in the last centuries. They didn’t have cars. They had carriages.
Attending the funeral were sixty pallbearers, each of whom owed his life to that beloved physician. And behind that group of carriages walked eight hundred men, all of whom owed their ability to walk in the ministries of that beloved doctor and, the carriages, to the number of two hundred ninety-three, followed behind.
And the comment was made—why it was spoken of—that it was the funeral not of a great military hero or of a political genius, but it was the memorial service of a man of God who had poured his life into the healing of the people.
Well, when I read that, somehow it just came to my heart in a poignancy I have seldom felt. That’s going to be the way it is when God leads His saints into heaven, when the saints go marching in. These are they that He has lifted out of the gutter. These are they that He has pardoned from their sins. These are they that He has given strength, and help, and hope, and life, and salvation. They’re going to follow our Lord into that great train into heaven. The author here speaks of it: “In leading many sons into glory” [Hebrews 2:10].
O Lord, what a wonderful, wonderful, incomparably precious thing God has done for us in sending us His beloved and only Son, identified with us, sympathizing with us, taking away from us the fear of the agony of death [Hebrews 2:14-15], and opening for us the gates of glory, through which one day we shall go marching in, following Him. May we stand together?
Blessed, blessed Jesus, I wish today we could kiss the nail-prints in Thy hands, as someday we shall. I wish today we could fall at Thy nail-pierced feet before whose precious feet someday we shall fall. I wish today that I had eloquence and words to speak of the overflowing thanksgiving of my soul for the death of the Son of God that I might live [1 Corinthians 15:3], becoming poor that we might be rich [2 Corinthians 8:9], suffering that we might not suffer [Isaiah 53:5], dying that we might not die [John 11:25-26], opening for us in the experience of what we call death, the entrance into heaven [2 Peter 1:11]. O Lord, that we could sing of it more beautifully and preach of it more wonderfully, and in our lives, live it more victoriously.
And in this moment that we stand before the Lord, a family, a couple, or just you, “Today, pastor, we have decided for God. And in deepest gratitude and thanksgiving, we are dedicating our lives to the Lord.” Some of you coming on a confession of faith, “I receive Him as my Savior.” Some of you putting your life in the church; some of you following the Lord in baptism, as He commanded [Matthew 3:13-17, 28:19-20], “In obedience, I’m coming.”
As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. In the balcony round, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down an aisle, “Here I am, pastor. This is God’s day, and I’m coming.”
And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest: that Christ didn’t die in vain, but God hath given Him a people. O bless the name of the Lord that it could be we. Thank Thee, Master, for those who come, in Thy precious and saving name, amen.
While we sing . . .
LORD’S ENTRANCE INTO SUFFERING
A. He became a man to
taste death for us (Hebrews 2:9)
B. Made “perfect”
through suffering(Hebrews 5:7-9)
“Perfect” to us means “sinless moral perfection”
– “the fulfillment of the purpose for which a thing was made”
II. Our Lord arrives at the day of His
A. The purpose our Lord
achieved for us(Hebrews 10:4-5, 7)
Standing before those tragic days in agony(Luke
12:50, 22:42-44, John 12:27, Matthew 26:52, 54)
1. The travail of His
soul (Isaiah 53:10)
a. From heaven’s glory
to this world of death, disease and despair
b. The angels of heaven
worshiping Him, and now He is mocked
His face the brightness of the sun, now spit on, beaten(Revelation 21:23, Isaiah 52:14)
From His throne in heaven, to the suffering of the cross
III. The teleios of His suffering
A. That He might be
identified with us(Hebrews 2:11-18)
Common denominator of all life – sorrow, tears, suffering
learned submissiveness, obedience to the will of God(Hebrews 5:8, Job 1:21, John 18:11)
He learned sympathy(Hebrews 4:15-16)
deliver us from fear of death(Hebrews 2:9, 15)
fear of death – instinctively, spiritually
Death is now the gates into heaven
a. Crusade in Odessa(Revelation 21:4)
bring many sons to glory(Hebrews 2:9-10)
He is the leader, captain(Ephesians 4:8)