John Ridgway's Personal Reflections over the last three years on Easter:
In the Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) we have a graphic prediction of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ about 700 years before this extraordinary event took place.
There appears to be three excruciating levels of pain that Jesus endured on the cross. We are told the pain was absolutely unbearable. In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe and so a new word was invented: excruciating, literally meaning out of the cross. Lee Strobel in his book, The Case for Easter makes this point on page 19.
The first level was on the PHYSICAL LEVEL. Isaiah 52:14 states, His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man. The Message says, He didn't even look human, a ruined face, disfigured past recognition. Matthew's gospel tells us he was struck in his face by fists. He was struck again and again on the head by a staff. He was slapped in the face continuously. He was flogged mercilessly with a whip containing pieces of sharp bone that severely tore up the flesh, the muscles and the veins. Many died from such scourging. A crown of thorns was jammed on his head. He carried his own cross. He was pierced in his side by a spear. He was crucified. Mel Gibson's' movie, The Passion of the Christ attempted to depict this terrible physical suffering. The word "passion" comes from a Latin Word meaning 'to submit to suffering'.
The second level was on the PSYCHOLOGICAL LEVEL. Isaiah 52:14 states, His form (personality, nature) was marred beyond human likeness. A similar word is used in Philippians 2:6 and 7 where it is translated as "nature" in the NIV and "form" in the KJV. It is also used in Mark 16:12 where the word "morphos" means the whole nature and essence of God. The very being or essence of God in human form was excruciatingly marred beyond that of any other human personality. The gospel records tell us that he was mocked and spat upon. He had insult upon insult heaped upon him for over three hours. There were constant attempts to undermine his very being, "If you are the Son of God"
Then there was the third level of suffering. This was at the SPIRITUAL LEVEL. "He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities." (Isaiah 53:5). The Message says, "It was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him "our sins!" Isaiah 53:11 describes the "suffering of his soul" or as the Message puts it, "that terrible travail of soul" when Jesus experienced the full judgment of God for all the sins of all mankind. Jesus was crushed to the point that he yelled out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). Jesus, the eternal holy unblemished Son of God, was experiencing hell instead of me. It was excruciating suffering of a level unknown to mankind.
Isaiah 58:10 tells us that after Jesus made "his life a guilt offering" that "he shall live again" (LB). The Message states it this way, "The plan was that he gives himself as an offering for sin so that he'd see life come from it "life, life and more life. And God's plan will deeply prosper through him." Jesus would not only rise from the dead but in the process provide life (life now and for all eternity) for all mankind.
What is my response to this excruciating suffering on my behalf, when Jesus so willingly died for me, when he paid such a extreme price?
"This is how much God loved the world. He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed. By believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life� John 3:16 (Message).