The Lord Jesus’ Unique Experience of Suffering Under the Felt Burden of Imputed Sin
The chief burden of the Lord’s living family is sin. This is the main cause of all their sighs and groans, from the first quickening breath of the Spirit of God in their hearts till they lay down their bodies in dust.
But it may be asked, what experience could the blessed Lord have had of sin. Seeing he was perfectly free from it both in body and soul?
It is indeed a most certain and a most blessed truth that our gracious Redeemer “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21); was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19); and was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) Still, sin was so imputed to Him, and the Lord so “laid on him the iniquities of us all,” that he felt them just as if they had been His own. “He was made sin for us;” its guilt and burden were laid on his sacred head, and so became by imputation His that it was as if He had committed the sins charged upon Him.
Take the following illustration. View sin as a debt to the justice of God. Now, if you are a surety for another, and he cannot pay the debt, it becomes yours just as much as if you had yourself personally contracted it. The law makes no distinction between his debt and yours; and the creditor may sell the very bed from under you to pay the debt, just as if you were the original debtor. So the blessed Lord, by becoming Surety for His people, took upon Him their sins, and thus made them His own.
How else can we explain those expressions in the Psalms, which are evidently the language of his heart and lips, such as the following?
“For innumerable evils have compassed me about; mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me.”
Does not the Lord here speak of His iniquities taking hold upon Him, so that under their weight and burden He could not look up, and that they were more in number than the hairs of His head?
With the burden and weight of sin comes the wrath of God into the sinner’s conscience; and this is the most distressing feeling that can be well experienced out of hell. So the blessed Lord, when He took the burden and weight of sin, came under this wrath. This was “the horrible pit” into which He sank, (Psalm 40:2), “the deep mire in which there was no standing,” “the deep waters where the floods overflowed him” (Psalm 69:2).
This made Him say, “For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a hearth. My heart is smitten and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of thine indignation and thy wrath; for thou hast lifted me up and cast me down.” (Psalm 102:3, 4, 9, 10.)
None who read the word of truth with an enlightened eye can doubt that these Psalms refer to the blessed Lord, and that it is He who speaks in them.
Then there is the curse of the law, which peals such loud thunders, and sinks so deeply into the heart and conscience of the awakened sinner.
But did not Jesus endure this too?
Surely He did, both in body and soul, as the apostle declares, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written. Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).
Then there are the hidings of God’s countenance, the withdrawings of His presence, and His forsakings of the soul that still hangs upon him and cleaves to him.
But cannot our gracious Lord here deeply sympathise with His people who are mourning and sighing under the hidings of God’s countenance, for was not this the last bitter drop of the cup of suffering which He drank to the very dregs?
Did heaven or earth ever hear so mournful a cry as when the darling Son of God, in the agony of His tortured soul, cried out, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?”
Thus, whatever in number or degree be the spiritual griefs and sorrows of the Lord’s people; whatever convictions, burdens, sorrows, distresses, pangs of conscience, doubts, fears, and dismay under the wrath of God, the curse of the law, the hidings of His face, and the withdrawings of the light of His countenance they may grieve and groan under. Jesus, their blessed Forerunner, experienced them all in the days of His flesh, and to a degree and extent infinitely beyond all human conception.
Can any heart conceive, or any tongue express what the dear Redeemer experienced in the garden of Gethsemane, when His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; when he thrice prayed that the cup might pass from Him, and being in an agony, prayed more earnestly, so that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground?
Might He not truly say, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger” (Lamentations 1:12).
An awakened sinner, under divine quickening, has to bear but the weight of his own sins; but Jesus had to bear the sins of millions. It is at best but a few drops of the wrath of, God, and that wrath as already appeased, that fall into a trembling sinner’s conscience; but Jesus had to endure all the wrath of God due to millions of ransomed transgressors. It is but the distant peals of the law which sound in a convinced sinner’s soul; but the whole storm burst upon the head of the Surety. In a little wrath God hides his face from his Zion for a moment; but in great wrath he hid His face from His dear Son.
Thus, whatever be the spiritual sorrows and troubles of afflicted Zion, even though she be “tossed with tempest and not comforted,” in all she has a Head who suffered infinitely more than all the collective members.
They do but “fill up what is behind of the afflictions of Christ;” (Colossians 1:24); but O how small is that measure of affliction compared with His!
It was, then, his personal experience of these spiritual afflictions which makes the blessed Lord so sympathising a High Priest at the right hand of God. Though now exalted to the heights of glory, He can still feel for His suffering saints here below. The garden of Gethsemane, the cross of Calvary, are still in His heart’s remembrance, and all the tender pity and rich compassion of His soul melt towards His afflicted saints; for,
His heart is touch’d with tenderness.
His bowels melt with love.
By J.C. Philpot