1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Philippians 3:10 &11
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:5
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
Romans 8:16 &17
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(All Scriptures taken from the New International Version)
What does it mean to “share Christ suffering?”
What does it mean to “participate in the suffering of Christ?”
Most commentators I have read have parallel Christ Suffering with Evangelism. We share in his suffering when we take action to witness of what Christ has done for us. The suffering being the rude and angry people one might run across when sharing this message. However, somehow I’m having a hard time drawing a connection between being beaten beyond recognition, whipped, flogged, and crucified to mean comments, harsh words, or even threatening statements. Now, I’m not trying to belittle the millions who have died, or been put to death rather, because of their witness about Christ. Yet, I’m still having trouble drawing this correlation between sharing in Christ suffering and the Christians call to testify about Christ.
Why was he crucified?
Granted Christ was crucified for essentially that, testifying about who he was. Well, let me define that… Christ was crucified because of the claims he made about himself, but those claims had larger implications than just the personal forgiveness of sins. John 11:48 records this account of the Pharisees and the High Priest calling a meeting of the Sanhedrin to discuss their reasons for wanting to kill Jesus. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Jesus was a threat to their political structure. Jesus message was not just about forgiveness of sins, but the presence of a new kingdom, his kingdom, the Kingdom of God. When Jesus stepped onto the scene he pronounced the year of the Lord, the year of jubilee, in which all debt was released… forgiven. This divine reset button found itself in direct opposition to the greed and thirst for power of the current ruling authorities. Not to mention the complete class reconstruction of the Kingdom of God which lifted the least of these, the broken and bankrupt, the poor and oppressed, above the even the most outwardly righteous and religious of people, the Pharisees.
What did the cross represent?
“In the gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks of the cross and ties it to the meaning of discipleship: ‘If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34).
Think for a moment what the cross meant for those who were listening to Jesus and for those who were reading Mark’s gospel some 30 years later. Ched Myers puts it this way: ‘The cross in Mark’s day was neither religious icon nor metaphor for personal anguish or humility. It had only one meaning: that terrible form of capital punishment reserved by imperial Rome for political dissenters.’ Myers goes on: ‘The cross was a common sight in the revolutionary Palestine of Mark’s time; in this recruiting call, the disciple is invited to reckon with the consequences facing those who dare to challenge the hegemony of imperial Rome.’
With this ominous invitation, the cost of discipleship got much, much bigger. Embracing Jesus means embracing that cross. Mark doesn’t say it, but I suspect that after these words, the crowds around Jesus got smaller.”
The Foolishness of the Cross. A reflection on the cost of discipleship. by Joe Roos. Sojourners. August 2007 (Vol. 36, No. 8, pp. 28-31).
What were Christ sufferings?
John Howard Yoder writes in his book The Politics of Jesus, “The Cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt or a nagging in-law; it was the political, legally to be expected result of a moral clash with the powers of ruling society” (pg 132).
The apostle Paul wrote, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness” and lastly he mentions, “against spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB). Moreover, if we take up the life of Christ, and share in his sufferings, we will find ourselves in a struggle against evil powers and corrupt governing authorities of this both this world and those in heavenly places. Christianity will always be a threat to every Governing body no matter their founding traditions because Christ calls for true justice, mercy, and love. That is why he was killed, and that is how we will share in his sufferings.