As they travelled to Jerusalem, the disciples were looking forward to celebrating the Passover with Jesus, without realizing that he would be the ultimate Passover Lamb as foretold in the Scripture. Before he entered Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus took aside his disciples and said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified…”
Jesus’ suffering was in the plan of God. When the parents took the child Jesus to the temple to comply with the requirements of the Law, Simeon said to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35). As Jesus was about to begin his public ministry, John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Jesus experienced immense suffering. The Roman soldiers flogged him with a leather whip that had sharp pieces of bones and metal attached. They thrusted a crown of thorns on his head. With his bruised body and torn muscles, he also had to carry for a while the heavy wooden cross on which he would be later crucified. He would have experienced excruciating pain when the nails were driven through his hands and feet; his entire weight rested on those nails when the cross was raised and fixed in an upright position. He felt immense thirst and would have died from the exhaustion and suffocation caused by crucifixion. He also suffered emotionally when they mocked and insulted him, and crucified him between two criminals. Yet, the greatest suffering he endured was spiritual. Even though he was sinless, he bore the sins of the whole world, the prospect of which caused him to sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane the night before.
Jesus went to the cross so that we don’t experience the shame and guilt of sin. He died so that we don’t have to die for our sins. He chose to be rejected and despised so that we won’t be rejected; but rather we would be accepted as children of the living God.
The appropriate response we can have for the unconditional love of our Saviour would be to live a life of complete surrender to his lordship over our lives; a life well spent as an act of gratitude for all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
St. Stephen's celebrated its centenary on 26th December 1953 with much fanfare. Until then there had been no electric lights or fans. They were installed during this time.