“The Suffering of Christ: What Can Be Made of It?” by Andrew J. Schatkin

“The Suffering of Christ: What Can Be Made of It?” by Andrew J. Schatkin

In the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the final sufferings of Christ are rather specifically related. For example, in Matthew chapter 26, it is said that the chief priests and elders of the people gather in the palace of the high priest and take counsel together to arrest Jesus by stealth before executing him. Matthew relates that Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priest and asks what he would be compensated for the delivery of Jesus and they pay him thirty two pieces of silver. Matthew also relates that Pontius Pilate makes a decision not to release Jesus but to release Barabbas and then washes his hands of the entire situation. Subsequently, in that chapter it is related that the soldiers strip Jesus, put a scarlet robe upon him, place a crown of thorns upon his head, put a reed in his right hand, and then mocked him, spat upon him, and took the reed and stripped him of the robe, before leading him away to crucifixion. After the crucifixion, Jesus’s garments are divided among everyone by casting lots. The events surrounding the crucifixion are stated by Matthew in verses 37-54 of chapter 26.

Mark gives a rendition of these events in chapters 14 and 15. Luke also relates these events in chapters 22 and 23. In the Gospel of John, a similar scene of these events is set forth in chapters 18 and 19. These events are widely known to many people and are somewhat commonplace, at least in Western Society, and there are conversions in Asia and Africa as these events become more widely known.

Many people may say “too bad” and shrug off these events. The might say that a religious troublemaker ran into inevitable difficulties or at least had enemies that had moved against him. The wider issue presented by the suffering of Christ is really presented in asking what the sufferings of Christ mean. The more specific issue is what the suffering of any person means to anyone. In many instances, to many people, their lives are busy and they have no concern at all for the sufferings of others or their difficulties.

There is a small minority of people who may dedicate their lives to alleviating the sufferings of others. They may be connected with the church, but on the other hand they could be connected with any humanitarian group or organization. These people are a step ahead of the rest of us. But I would like to suggest a deeper meaning to the sufferings of Christ.

The sufferings of Christ point us to the sufferings of others. When we understand and share, intellectually and emotionally, in the suffering of Christ, we join with him in comprehending, empathizing, and understanding the suffering of all men and individuals. In God’s becoming a human being and enduring the great suffering that Christ endured for all humanity, he points us to the sufferings of others and brings us to understand and have compassion for the sufferings of others, knowing how Jesus suffered for each one of us to the point of death.

When we understand the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ, we can to some extent enter into and fully deal with the suffering that will inevitably come upon us. God became a human being and suffered for all persons. In that suffering he tells us who we should be and what we should do. By his example, we are led into the greater and deeper relationship and understanding of those who suffer, what their difficulties are, what they are faced with, and what we will be faced with

This essay is taken with alterations and modifications from my book Essays on Faith, Politics, Culture, and Philosophy, chapter 29, pp. 86 and 87, published by the University Press of America.

This essay is taken with alterations and modifications from my book Essays on Faith, Politics, Culture, and Philosophy, chapter 29, pp. 86 and 87, published by the University Press of America.