PARTICIPATING IN JESUS’ SUFFERINGS AND GLORY
Heb 12:1-11, 1 Pe 4:12-19 (K.V.: 1 Pe 4:13)
“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
We are gearing toward the end of our discipleship Bible study. Along with that, we see the light at the end of the tunnel of COVID-19. God’s mercy may be upon us so that we can safely overcome this pandemic. Last week, Msn. Gideon delivered a wonderful message about the lordship of Jesus. With Jesus’ mastery, everything in our life is in the right place, which means, the creation order has been restored. Moreover, Jesus the Liberator, Alpha and Omega and the Judge will help us complete our life mission and receive the rewards. So what should be our response to this lordship of Jesus? One of the best responses is we participate in his sufferings and glory. May God strengthen us to know the meaning of the sufferings and vision of the glory of Jesus so as to become his matured disciples.
Jesus’ Sufferings (Heb 12:1-3)
Even from birth, our lord Jesus knew suffering. His parents were poor and he grew in an obscure country town. And during his time on earth, especially, at the crucifixion, he suffered unbearable pain physically, spiritually and emotionally. He endured very severe torture of flogging. Then he was crucified on the cross. Those physical sufferings are well illustrated in the psalms. Ps 22:14 reads. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.” His mortal agony, however, is no match with the spiritual suffering. For a moment, he was forsaken by the Father as though he was no longer His son. So, Jesus cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Last but not least, he was emotionally suffering when he was human but was considered as a worm, scorned and despised by the people.
What can we learn from Jesus’ sufferings? According to Peter, his sufferings were not accidental but part of God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge (Ac 2:23). It is like a well-scripted movie in which God is the director, Jesus, a leading role, and the wicked people unwittingly a supporting role. In God’s divine screenplay, Jesus’ suffering would be the climax, the great reversal where the fundamental problem of the world, that is, the sin would be all taken away (Jn 1:29). Through the sufferings, Jesus would better understand our sufferings and become a merciful and faithful high priest who would mediate between God and the mankind. Surely, the term, “compassion” which means “suffering together” is the best suited for Jesus.
What was the source of Jesus’ enduring such sufferings? Look at Heb 12:2. “… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He could endure the cross because of the joy set before him. What joy? This joy can be the joy that comes from a sense of fulfillment and anticipation of reward. At the cross, he would fulfill his mission to the fullest and subsequently be rewarded. Elsewhere in the Hebrews, the author also points out that Moses could endure disgrace while looking ahead to his reward (Heb 11:26). Jesus asks the disciples to leap for joy at the time of persecution because of the great reward. So joy and reward are indispensable for enduring sufferings. In 1992 Olympics, the marathon event was notoriously tough, due to the boiling hot weather and the winding and climbing pathways toward the end (called Montjuic hill, a.k.a. the heart-exploding hill). At the end of the race, a Korean runner and a Japanese counterpart were competing for the top honor. The Korean athlete almost gave up at Montjuic hill, because of the torture-like climb and his never-tired competitor. At that moment, he envisioned the joy that his widowed mother and his fellow Koreans would have. He then endured heart-exploding pain and beat his opponent to win the race for the first and only gold medal for Korea. Perhaps, like this marathoner, with the joy set before us, we can continue to endure sufferings.
It is interesting to note that Jesus learned obedience from the sufferings (Heb 5:8). We may wonder how come Jesus needs to learn obedience. After all, he is the Son of God and as such, he might automatically obey the Father. Yet the reality is that he struggled very hard at Gethsemane to learn to obey the Father. That shows he is fully human just like us. It gives us hope in our struggles. Jesus also set the good example for us to follow. In another viewpoint, it also means how much Jesus wanted to undo the effect of the disobedience of Adam so as to become the source of salvation for those who would obey him (Heb 5:9).
For sure, life is good when learning is good. In the spiritual sense, learning obedience is good. Many of us have learned how to obey the Lord from receiving some form of training. During our Friday discussion, some members freely shared their training days where they learned obedience. I shared how I received the track and field training when I missed testimony writing. Msn. Mary Kim shared how she received so-called the baby-sitting training where she would do cooking, cleaning, laundry and many other chores at the parsonage. She personally shared how she almost cried while hand-cleaning the floor the parsonage because it was hard and lowly as she was working as a pharmacist daytime and serving the pastor’s house nighttime. However, somehow, God’s vision comforted her, affirming that she would be richly blessed later. Dr. Jason and Msn. Anastasia shared how they received the guest-serving training while in New Jersey. It required their 24 hour-long attention and lots of sacrifices. Sometimes they had to give their guest a ride to and from the JFK airport, which is an hour away and requires huge amount of extra monetary cost. Yet they confessed they were blessed as well through this training. Their training remind us of Heb 13:2, which reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” We believe the Perrys served angels in NJ and are still serving precious angels at DuPage UBF. Of course, Msn. Gideon and Mary Bahn received their due training in their heyday such as self-supporting and vocabulary memorization. May God bless us to learn obedience through our training days.
Participating in Jesus’ Sufferings and Glory (Heb 12:4-11; 1 Pe 4:12-19)
Now that we grasp the meaning of the sufferings of Jesus, our attention is naturally geared toward our own sufferings. We are going through sufferings. No exception except a certain degree and type of difference. However, often what makes us more distressed is not sufferings themselves but the fact we do not know the purpose and the meaning of our sufferings. The righteous man Job had a similar feeling about his sufferings. He was more troubled with not knowing why he had to go through of his sufferings even though he tried to live righteously. According to the Romans, at least we can know this: in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Ro 8:28). Moreover, God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (Ro 8:29). Truly, God’s purpose for our suffering is good and is to make us conformed to Jesus. James, Jesus’ half-brother, once pointed out that sufferings could produce perseverance and perseverance makes us mature and complete, not lacking anything (Jas 1:2-4). So we can say that sufferings generate spiritual growth rings in us just like the harsh winter time generates trees’ growth rings. While addressing to his spiritual son, Tim, Paul shared why he endures his sufferings. 2 Ti 2:10 reads. “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” What a beautiful idiom it is when we say “for the sake of the elect”? In a sense, that is what “compassion (suffering together)” is called for. Through our sufferings, we help the elect to obtain eternal and glorious salvation. Lastly, the Hebrews helps us how we can see our sufferings in a different angle. Heb 12:7 and 11 read. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” When we see our sufferings as loving discipline from our Heavenly father, we can bear them and can have a harvest of righteousness and peace.
So far we have talked about the aspects of the suffering. Jesus’ sufferings, our own sufferings, the purpose and meaning of the sufferings, etc. Yet there is another part we may think about. That is the glory in the midst of and after the sufferings. That is an essential part in the discipleship. What are the glories we can participate in now and later? 1 Pe 4:14 reads. “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” 2 Co 3:18 reads. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we go through sufferings, we will not be alone in doing so because the Spirit of glory and of God is resting on us. It prevents us from being possessed by the worldly spirit, but helps see the glory to be revealed. Paul says amid the sufferings we can contemplate the Lord’s glory with unveiled faces and it helps us to be transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory. Ever-increasing sounds like there is no decreasing. It means there is no more ups and downs in our Christian but we steadily and firmly process toward the heaven. Php 3:20 says our true citizenship in heaven. And Ro 8:18 illuminates on us what degree of glory we will have. It will be incomparable glory with us.
Having learned from the aspect of glory, what attitude can we have with regard to participating Jesus’ sufferings and glory? Let us read 1 Pe 4:13. “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” To raise up or to be a disciple, this step of participating in Jesus’ sufferings must be there. However, not many people dare to do that. It is like faltering at the fourth quarter in a football game. Yet Apostle Peter exhorts us to take a stand on sufferings with a rejoicing attitude. It is because we will be overjoyed when Jesus’ glory is revealed. Such glory is accompanied by the heavenly prize (Php 3:14) and the victor’s crown (Rev 2:10).
In conclusion, we learned that Jesus’ sufferings were not accidental but part of God’s plan to take away the sins and become a compassionate priest. We also learned the secret of enduring the sufferings is the joy of fulfilling the mission and the reward set before us. We can learn obedience through sufferings. We can be matured with perseverance that generates spiritual growth rings. With ever-increasing glory and the eternal glory to be revealed, we can participate in sufferings joyfully.