November 4, 2019

Where Was Jesus in My Suffering?

This is an adapted excerpt from Mez McConnell’s new book The Creaking on the Stairs: Finding Faith in God Through Childhood Abuse. Please order the book through 10ofthose. Every purchase made through 10ofthose helps to support the work of 20schemes.

I hear the first thud before I hear her voice. ‘Move it, you stupid spastic!’ More thuds follow. Thud! Thud! Thud! I sneak to the top of the landing and peek my head down the stairs. My disabled sister is being dragged by her hair backwards to the hallway below. Who knows what she has done to incur her wrath this time.

I’m just glad it isn’t me.

She kicks the living room door open and drags my sister through it. My sister isn’t struggling. There’s no point. That only makes the pain worse, so she just tries to move as quickly as she can so she doesn’t lose too many clumps of hair. We’ve both become pros over the years at trying to minimise the pain as much as we can.

It’s the whimpering I can never forget. Like an injured animal by the side of the road. Not screaming out. Not crying. Just whimpering in misery, confusion, and pain.

I follow them through the door at a safe distance. I don’t want to put myself in the firing line. They’re in the kitchen now and my sister has been dragged to the sink. ‘What do you call that?’ My sister says nothing. Just sobs, softly. ‘Answer me!’ she screams, spittle dripping off her chin. ‘A . . . a . . . a spoon?’ My sister manages to say. ‘Well, what’s it doing in there?’ ‘I . . . I . . . don’t know.’ Without warning, she slams her head off the edge of the sink, and my sister slides to the floor in a daze. ‘You’re nothing but a lazy spastic!’ She boots her in the stomach. ‘Get up off that floor and get it washed.’

She turns toward the living room and so I run as fast as I can to my bedroom and silently close the door. A few minutes later I hear the footsteps of my sister, limping back to her room. I hear her door close and then the all-too-familiar sound of muffled crying. She daren’t cry too loud in case this makes her angrier still. I want to go and tell her that it’s going to be alright. But I know it’s not. And I know at some point today it will be my turn to face the rage and feel the sting of whatever torture she wants to inflict upon me.

So I do nothing. I sit on my bed, feeling bad for my suffering sister, trembling in terror, crying softly to myself.

Waiting for my turn. Waiting to hear that all-too-familiar sound of the creaking on the stairs.

Jesus and Suffering

By the end of His life Jesus had become well acquainted with pain. We really have no understanding of the pain He went through on the cross. I remember when The Passion of the Christ was released in the cinema and many people walked out, upset by the graphic nature of the violence. Crucifixion was a terrible way to die. It was one of the worst and most evil forms of torture devised by the human race. In Roman times, crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals: traitors and murderers.

But, before we get to the cross, we read in John 19:1 that Pilate handed Jesus over to be flogged. In Jesus’ day, floggings were a common thing. Even the Jews had a law that limited the number of times a person could be flogged. For them it was a maximum of 39 times. But the Romans took flogging to a whole new level. They called it scourging and it was designed purposely to be as painful as possible. The whips used had at least three straps, each weighted down on the end with either lead balls or animal bones. They were specifically designed to rip open the skin upon contact. They would have stripped Jesus of His clothing, tied Him down, and whipped Him mercilessly until He was a bloody pulp.

Again, the whole thing would have been controlled and deliberate. People had been known to die from scourging over the years, and so the Romans had perfected the art of inflicting just enough pain to ensure that a person suffered but didn’t die immediately. In other words, they knew how to prolong suffering.

We read in Matthew 27:26 that after Jesus had been scourged, He was handed over to be crucified. There would have been no dignity in it, as Jesus made His way to the place of His crucifixion. Beaten and bloody, surrounded by jeering crowds on all sides. Poor Mary being made to watch Him suffer. A crown of thorns had been rammed onto His head, causing even more pain and torment.

And as He arrived at Calvary, He was thrown on top of a wooden stake and six-inch nails were driven into His hands. The pain of that would have shot through His bloodied body. The feet come next, the pain doubtless excruciating. Any slight movement now would have caused untold agony for Jesus. As the cross is lifted up and planted into the ground, the trauma of that would have sent shockwaves through His battered body.

The weight of His body, and the terrible blood loss, would have caused His body to sag. This, in turn, would have torn at His hands. As He moved to take the pressure off His hands, He would have piled more pressure on His feet. The nails now tear through the muscles in His feet. Inevitably, He tires and begins to sag again. Now there is pressure in His chest and lungs. It’s hard to breathe. But there is nothing He can do to ease His pain and suffering. Any movement now means unspeakable agony.

After three hours of this, the Bible records that Jesus breathed His last.

Now, at this point in the story we could be forgiven for feeling sorry for Jesus. For the injustice of an innocent man having to go through all of that. If this were the end of the story then, yes, it would be sad, but it wouldn’t be unique. It wouldn’t be special. After all, many men and women have been unlawfully killed over the years. Many innocent people have gone to their deaths. Many of them have been tortured and murdered just as horrifically. They’ve been starved to death, boiled to death, fed to wild animals, beheaded, used as human candles, burned to death. All for the crime of being Christians. In fact, the soil of our planet is drenched in the blood of Christian martyrs through the ages.

But there was something different about this death. Something remarkable.

Jesus volunteered to die in this cruel, barbaric way.

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