The Suffering Savior


Mark 14:43-15:47, The Betrayal and Crucifixion

If you ask many people what was the overarching life purpose of Jesus of Nazareth, they would say, “to be a great teacher.” Others might say that He came to bring miraculous healing. Jesus did teach; but His primary purpose was not to be an effective teacher. Jesus did heal; but His primary purpose was not to be a compassionate healer.

The overarching life purpose of Jesus of Nazareth was to bring people into restored relationship with God the Father. Mankind can never attain to all that is required by the Ten Commandments or even The Beatitudes; Jesus makes it possible for us to enter into relationship with a holy God by what He did for us.

When I think about Jesus’ great work of salvation, I usually think about what He did from His death on Good Friday to His resurrection on Easter Sunday. That’s when, according to tradition, He battled Satan. That’s when, according to scripture, He conquered the power of sin and death through His death and resurrection. This is the mighty work of atonement that makes new life with God possible.

But if the only work in the atonement was what happened between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, then why did Jesus have to suffer such humiliation and degradation between the betrayal and His death? If the atoning work of Jesus to defeat sin and death took place only between His betrayal and His death, why couldn’t His death have been more like John the Baptist’s? Ugly. Brutal. And swift. But without all the taunting, beating, and shame? What was the purpose behind this added layer of suffering? Doesn’t it seem like unnecessary additional suffering from which His Father could have—should have—spared Him?

What did Jesus suffer in those last 12 hours before the sky went dark?

  • accusations
  • lies
  • condemnation
  • beatings
  • humiliation
  • ridicule
  • reviling
  • put-downs
  • mocking
  • shame

So much of what the Christ suffered between His betrayal and His death really fall into two broad categories: efforts to make Him afraid, and attempts to shame Him.

Fear and shame. Shame and fear. What Jesus suffered in these final hours are the very things that have always been two of mankind’s greatest spiritual struggles. But why did Jesus have to enter into this additional battle just before engaging in the greatest spiritual battle of all?

Could it be that Jesus was breaking the power of these tactics of the enemy by suffering them specifically in his final hours on earth, and in so doing, that He was demonstrating that He understood the power of fear and shame in our lives?

Scripture tells us that Satan is our great accuser. That he stands day or night and accuses us before God the Father. That he is the father of lies. That he condemns us before God. We know that where there is shame and where there is fear, that the enemy of our soul is accomplishing his great work.

Attempts to shame Jesus are everywhere in the crucifixion account: the spitting, the bowing down, the robe of purple, the crown of thorns, the taunting, the belittling, the incessant mocking. The efforts to arouse fear in Him come as potent jabs: “Save Yourself and come down from the cross!” “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!” “Come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” The desired effect is to arouse a fear in Jesus that God won’t save Him.

And we hear the same mocking, taunting voices today. Shame cries out, “You are unworthy! You are unlovable! You do not measure up!” Fear declares, “You will not be rescued! You will be abandoned! You will fail!”

For the full power of the atonement to produce the freedom that Jesus came to bring us, we have to allow Him to put to death the fear and shame that grip us. If we would truly grasp the all-encompassing grace offered to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we would no longer be overcome by shame. If we would truly grasp how wide and how high and how deep is the Father’s love for us, we would no longer be overwhelmed by fear.

Jesus came to show us the way to the Father. His full work of atonement gives us not only access to the Father but freedom from fear and shame as well. What a compassionate savior we have, that His last gift to us before breaking the power of sin and death was to break the stranglehold fear and shame long to have over us.


  1. Betsy Nolan

    Shame and fear.
    Fear and shame… Tabloid headlines and magazine cover pages while in line at the grocery store would cause me to think these are such 2015 issues.
    Yet. Yet…
    Thank you…Ms. O’Neil for the work you are doing to bring today’s woman to the Jesus of the bible.


      He is so relevant to us today, isn’t He, Betsy? It’s amazing how He addressed these very struggles of ours when He was suffering His greatest trial. He can be trusted!



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