Recently, I visited a gorgeous garden with a ring of bronze statues at its center, all depicting vignettes of healings, sermons, and other miracles. In the serene beauty of that garden, I eventually came to stand before a representation of Jesus carrying His cross towards Calvary. I was captivated, and I studied the sculpture, the imposing cross, the antagonizing wreath of thorns, the burdened shoulders, the determined, forward posture of the wrongly condemned Savior. The sculpture showed Him bearing—very literally—a weighty punishment for a crime that He didn’t commit, and I started to reflect on all the burdens He has borne for me and for all of us, burdens He didn’t deserve, burdens we couldn’t lift. There, in that garden, I thought about His incomparable love and about the incomprehensible magnitude of His sacrifice—and I felt His reassuring love, reinforcing me against the unyielding pressures of life.
Millennia ago, Isaiah prophesied of the burdens Christ was to carry. He said, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Isaiah foretold that Christ’s life was to be marked by adversity and struggle. Just as Jesus carried a cross He didn’t deserve, He bore afflictions and sorrows that weren’t His own. Isaiah makes it clear: He was wounded for our wickedness, and He sorrowed for our sufferings.
In a way that I don’t completely—or even mostly—understand, Jesus took our troubles upon Himself so that He could relieve us of their terrible weight. In bearing His cross, He somehow carried ours too, and the result of it is that we don’t need to suffer the weight of our struggles and sins. As a good friend once taught me by his cheery example: why should I suffer all over again if Jesus has already suffered in my place?
However, trouble inevitably befalls us throughout our life. Christ’s suffering, then, isn’t exactly a guarantee that we will slip through life without friction or turbulence but is, rather, a promise that, through Him, we will find a way to transcend the opposition that we meet along the way. In a very real and inexplicable way, Christ didn’t just experience abstract agony: per Isaiah’s words, He experienced our specific and individual heartaches, regrets, headaches, and woes. Because of that, His compassion is perfect, and His desire to help us to overcome opposition is limitless.
Why would He reach out to strengthen us against temptations? Because He knows the pain of temptation, having suffered it Himself. Why would He relieve the critically ill? Because He has felt the terrible discomfort of sickness. Why would He heal the frayed relationship or soothe the wounded heart? Because He has felt the urgent yearning for loving kindness. In some miraculous way, He has, literally, felt the pains and sadnesses that we feel from day to day.
Often, we hear, or perhaps even say, you wouldn’t understand, but that is something we can never tell Christ. Standing in that garden, studying that sculpture of the Savior and His cross, I felt the reality of His compassion more clearly. Beginning now, and in future posts, I hope to explore Christ’s compassion, to explore the ways in which He experienced our sorrows as well as the ways in which He transcended them. Surely, we have in Christ not only a companion in our misery but also a Savior, a rescuer who knows our griefs with intimate clarity and who knows the way out with godly certainty. Indeed, Christ’s yoke was not just to live an exceptionally hard life in order to take away our right to complain. Instead, His yoke was to shoulder our yokes, to share our loads and ease our burdens, and to honor the promise He made when He said that “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).