“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Eleven words—one sentence of Scripture. Undoubtedly, this verse has been read countless times by millions. But how many have recognized the profound meaning of these words?
How many have stopped to meditate upon the significance of this portion of God’s Word? Have you grasped what it meant for Jesus Christ to have come to His own—His own people and nation—indeed, His own creation—and be rejected?
Very few understand, with any level of depth or clarity, what Jesus actually endured during His 3½-year earthly ministry. From the very beginning of His ministry, until its end, Christ faced and persevered through opposition, accusation, interrogation, schemes, plots, threats—and, ultimately, absolute rejection and death. Yes, few even begin to comprehend the sufferings of Jesus.
Beginning of Christ’s Ministry
Jesus Christ was a Messenger sent from God. The message He brought was about the coming kingdom of God. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus began to proclaim this good news “after that John was put in prison.” He “came into Galilee, preaching [teaching, proclaiming, announcing] the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
And going “about all Galilee [He was] teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matt. 4:23-25).
As Christ traveled throughout Judea teaching, performing miracles and healing the sick, His notoriety grew; large masses began to follow Him from place to place, assembling to hear Him speak. The excitement and “buzz” about Jesus of Nazareth was on the minds of thousands. Many were anticipating a chance to hear Him speak.
But not all felt this way.
Opposed by Religious Leaders
Having heard of Jesus, a group of Pharisees and Sadducees sought Him one day. But they were not interested in hearing His teaching; they had assembled to confront Christ.
“Show us a sign,” one of them demanded. Then another chimed in, “Yes, give us a sign from heaven. We want proof You have come from God!”
Sighing, but looking intently in their direction, Christ responded, “Why does this generation seek a sign? You are a wicked and adulterous generation! The only sign you shall receive is that of the prophet Jonah!”
Jesus turned and walked away. This was only one of countless occasions the religious leaders tested Him (Matt. 16:1-4).
Concerned with keeping their position and power, the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes—the religious rulers of the day—were intimidated by Christ’s teaching. They were unsettled by the throngs of people coming to listen to Him. They were angered that people were following Him, and not them.
The good news of the coming kingdom of God threatened their positions. They knew this was a message about government. The Pharisees were the most threatened of all; some among this religious sect had been given minor government offices by the Romans. Though they were under a Roman king ruling over the district of Judea, the lower civil offices of rule they held were important to them. These political offices brought power and prestige—and paid well. In their minds, the message Jesus brought jeopardized all of this.
Filled with fear, jealousy and contempt, they sought to counter Jesus at every opportunity. They could not let this subversive individual (as they assumed Him to be) continue His preaching unchecked.
The Pharisees were quite familiar with the Messianic passages of Isaiah (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; 53). Some of them even knew Jesus was the Messiah sent from God. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with him” (John 3:1-2). Yes, they knew!—but they misunderstood the message. They believed there would be only one Messianic appearance, not realizing Christ’s First Coming was for the purpose of being sacrificed as the Lamb of God. They thought Jesus came to overthrow the Roman Empire.
These religious leaders, many of whom were politicians, felt they had to act if they were to retain their positions above the common people—their vaunted place in society. They feared being accused of sedition by Rome, and summarily executed. This self-seeking interest mandated that Christ’s influence on the people be countered—even if it meant taking His life (John 11:47-49).
At every opportunity, the Pharisees opposed, persecuted and sought to frustrate Jesus (Luke 11:53-54). They implied that He was born illegitimately, saying, “We be not born of fornication” (John 8:41). They called Him a self-promoter seeking a following (John 8:13). They said He was no better than a dog, and demon possessed (John 8:48; 7:20).
Their accusations were endless. When Jesus cast a demon out of a blind mute, restoring both his sight and speech, they claimed, “This fellow does not cast out devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:24)—that Christ’s power to perform miracles came from the devil, not from God. They portrayed Him as uneducated and unlearned, lacking the proper education and credentials (John 7:15). They accused Him of being “a man gluttonous…a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matt. 11:19), a Sabbath breaker (Matt. 12:9-10) and a blasphemer (John 10:33).
Jesus was regularly in danger of losing His life (John 5:16, 18). Several times He narrowly escaped being stoned (John 8:59; 10:31).
On numerous occasions, the religious authorities sought to bait and trap Christ in words or deeds. Hoping to accuse Him of sedition, a group of Pharisees plotted how they might trick Him. They hoped to cause Him to say something that could be used against Him. They sent underlings to do the dirty work.
Employing flattery, the Pharisees’ disciples insincerely inquired, “Teacher, we know You speak the truth of God’s way without compromise. You do not care about a person’s status in life; You treat all the same and speak the words they need to hear. Please tell us what You think about this matter for we know You will tell us rightly. Does the law say we must pay taxes to Caesar? Or should we not?”
But Christ was not fooled. He knew their purpose was to have Him speak against the Roman government so they could accuse Him.
Jesus responded boldly, “Why do you try to trap Me in words, you hypocrites? Give Me a piece of money.” Holding a coin up to their faces, He asked, “Whose likeness and words are stamped on this coin?”
“Caesar’s,” came their sheepish reply, knowing their ploy had not worked.
Jesus continued teaching them a hard lesson, saying, “Then give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God the things that are His.”
Having been silenced, the Pharisees’ disciples walked away knowing they would have to report to their masters that their entrapment attempts had failed (Matt. 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26).
Such was the resistance Jesus regularly faced.
The one thing most people can count on is family. Yet Jesus could not even rely on the support of His brothers. This became apparent after He returned to His home in Galilee because of the rising threat to His life from the religious authorities. It was shortly before the Feast of Tabernacles.
Not yet understanding who their brother was, they, in their unbelief, became frustrated over His refusal to publicly show His powers. “What are You doing here? Why don’t You go to Judea? Go to Your students and show them Your mighty works. If You can do miracles, why do You hide? If You want to be known, then do Your miracles out in the open!”
Even among His family, there were times when He had no support. Christ knew what yet lay ahead of Him. Jesus responded, “My time is not yet come, but your time is always here. The world does not hate you; but Me it hates, because I testify that this world’s works are evil. You go up to this feast: I will come later because it is not yet My time” (John 7:6-8).
Imagine how this must have felt—to be ridiculed by family who did not understand. Christ’s life was in constant danger. His brothers, who had no such worries, could not give even the smallest amount of comfort or support. They simply did not understand who He was, or His message.
Jesus was keenly aware that “a prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (Mark 6:4).
Even some of the common people ridiculed Him. Because Jesus came from towns that were looked down upon—Galilee and Nazareth—comments about His heritage evoked sarcastic put-downs. “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46), one man sneered upon hearing about Jesus.
Though masses followed Him wherever He went, not all cared about the words Jesus spoke. Many, having heard of His feeding thousands, were more interested in the physical food available, which sustains only temporary life. Their minds were far away from understanding the spiritual food freely given to them that leads to eternal life.
One day after feeding 5,000 men near the Sea of Galilee, Christ crossed over the waters into Capernaum. The crowds from the previous day found Him there. Then one came to Him, and said, “Rabbi, when did you get here? We have been searching for You.”
Knowing why the people searched for Him, He answered, “You have searched for Me because of the food I fed everyone with yesterday. You are not here because of the miracles I performed or the words I speak, you are here to be fed again. You are much too concerned with physical food that perishes. You ought to desire that food I freely give, which leads to everlasting life!”
Not comprehending His words, the people began to ask for more miracles and for bread, like the manna Moses had given their forefathers to eat in the Wilderness of Sinai. They did not understand that Christ was the unleavened Bread of Life. His sacrifice would make possible the gift of eternal life to all who would accept it and surrender to Christ’s rule in their lives.
“Moses did not give them that bread from heaven,” Jesus said to the crowd. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. I am that Bread of Life. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood,” Christ said, speaking of the soon-to-be-instituted Passover symbols, “will receive eternal life and will be resurrected at the last day!”
At those words, many began to express disbelief. “What is He saying?” some said. “This is hard to understand. How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? How will that give us eternal life?” Christ’s followers began to murmur. He explained further that “no man can come to Me, except those whom My Father calls.”
Shaking their heads, “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66). Those who had seemingly expressed genuine interest in Jesus’ message simply turned, walked away and followed Him no more.
Looking at the apostles-in-training, Jesus asked, “Will you also go away and forsake Me?”
Peter confidently replied, “Lord, You have the words of eternal life, where else would we go?”
Jesus—knowing of events yet to come and who would betray Him—replied, “Have I not chosen you 12? But yet one of you is My enemy” (John 6:67-70). Yes, more opposition, rejection and betrayal were ahead.
A Pivotal Event
As the Pharisees’ resentment of Christ grew, their desire to silence Him increased (John 11:53). Ultimately, their goal remained the same: to kill Him. This opportunity came in the spring of A.D. 31, during Passover, as Christ’s earthly ministry was coming to a close (Matt. 26:1-4; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:37).
Judas Iscariot, giving in to his lust for money (John 12:3-6) and Satan’s influence over him, schemed with the chief priests and scribes to deliver Jesus into their hands. As the Passover drew near, Judas approached them, and asked, “What will you give me and I will deliver Him unto you?” Judas was hoping for a monetary reward.
This brought great joy to the chief priests—it was just what they had been hoping for! They agreed to pay him 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15-16; Mark 14:11).
Accepting their offer, Judas, from that point forward, “sought opportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6). His opportunity soon came.
Having instituted the new Passover symbols, Jesus began to focus on events that were just hours ahead. Would He be able to endure the pain, suffering and humiliation? Could He complete the purpose for which He was born? Could there be another way to accomplish the first step in God’s Plan of salvation?
Leaving the location where the Passover had been held, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsemane, as He had done many times; the disciples followed. Arriving at the garden, in the darkness of the night, “He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Christ was keenly aware of what was about to unfold. God sent an angel to strengthen Him.
Jesus’ prayers intensified. “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:41-44). Three times Jesus prayed to God that there might be another way to pay for the sins of mankind: “O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42).
Yet, there was no other way. Jesus was ready to fully submit to His Father’s will.
Looking for support from His disciples during this agonizing period, Jesus instead found them sleeping. “What, could you not watch with Me one hour?” He asked. “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:40-41), He warned. The disciples were unaware of the tremendous trial about to come—one that would test their commitment and loyalty to Christ to the utmost degree.
But Peter and the disciples had already forgotten Christ’s earlier warning (Matt. 26:31-34; Mark 14:27-30).
Returning from praying the third time, He found them asleep again. With urgency, Christ roused them from their slumber. “Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; behold, he who is betraying Me is at hand” (Matt. 26:45-46).
Around midnight, Jesus turned and saw Judas approaching with a crowd. Among them were soldiers and officers carrying clubs and swords. Walking toward Jesus with open arms, Judas said, “Greetings, Teacher!” and then kissed Him. The signal was given; the deed was done.
Looking His betrayer in the eyes, Jesus asked, “Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?”
Several men wielding clubs and swords stepped forward. Treating Christ like a common criminal, they seized Him, and took Him away. Looking on in disbelief, the disciples, still groggy from sleep, turned—forsaking their Master and Teacher—and fled!
Even Peter, who only hours before had vehemently declared he would never forsake Christ, denied Him three times in the coming hours (Mark 14:66-72).
Jesus was now on His own through the coming agonizing ordeal, but His heavenly Father would be there to strengthen Him.
The Trial Begins
Bound, and surrounded by unfriendly faces, the angry mob pushed and pulled Jesus as they led Him away in the darkness. They first arrived at the home of Annas, father-in-law of that year’s High Priest, Caiaphas. Then Annas sent Him to Caiaphas.
Once there, Jesus began to face false accusers. One after the other came forward with fabricated and contradictory testimony. The chief priests and elders desperately wanted a reason to put Christ to death. And then two men claimed, “We heard this man say He was able to destroy God’s temple and rebuild it in three days!”
Standing up from his chair, his voice rising in anger, Caiaphas examined Jesus: “Did You say those words? Is their testimony true? Will You answer me or not?”
Jesus remained silent.
Becoming more incensed, the High Priest glared at Him. “I adjure You by the living God,” he charged, “that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
Looking back at Caiaphas, Jesus answered, “What you have said is correct.” Knowing what would come next, He continued, “Nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall you see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
His anger boiling over, Caiaphas tore his clothes and roared, “Blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Now you have heard His blasphemy!”
He eagerly asked the chief priests and members of the Sanhedrin, “What do you think?”
“He must be put to death!” they decreed in agreement. They did not understand that their minds were being used as tools of the devil.
There stood Christ—a perfect, sinless human being, who, for telling the truth, was now sentenced to death by His own creation. Yet because He was filled with love for mankind, He was willing to endure much more.
The atmosphere rose to a fever pitch. Taunts, insults and blows came crashing down. Blindfolded, Jesus could not see the attacks coming. Time and again, they struck His face while spitting in it, and delivered painful blows to His body. Blood and spit ran down His swollen face. Bruises from broken blood vessels began to show. Taunts rang in His ears: “Prophesy to us, You who claim to be Christ. Tell us, who hit You?”
As morning came, the chief priests and elders plotted how they would put Jesus to death—but who would do the deed for them (Matt. 26:57-68; 27:1; Mark 14:53-65; 15:1)?
Facing Pilate and Herod
Having hatched their plan early in the morning, the religious leaders led Jesus to Pilate, hoping for a speedy execution. Once there, they accused Him before Pilate to make their case. “We found this man perverting the nation and forbidding the people to give tribute to Caesar, saying He was a king, Christ.”
Pilate asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“It is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Satisfied with Christ’s answer, Pilate turned to the chief priests and said, “I find no fault in this Man.”
This was not what they wanted to hear, so they began to plead their case more earnestly: “But He is a troublemaker! He stirs up all of the people, teaching throughout the land.”
Hearing Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate thought he had a way out. This is Herod’s business, not mine, he thought, so he ordered that Jesus be sent to Herod.
Having heard of His fame, Herod was pleased to see Jesus. At last, I might see Him perform a miracle! Herod questioned Him at length while the chief priests and scribes leveled their accusations.
Yet Christ stood still and kept silent.
Growing restless, Herod made sport of Him. “And he with his men of war [soldiers] set Him at naught [despised utterly], and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate” (Luke 23:11).
Again, the religious leaders accused Jesus before Pilate. But Pilate, perceiving their motives (Mark 15:10), desired to let Christ go.
“You brought this Man to me to put to death, but neither I nor Herod find any reason to do so. You have a custom that one be released for the Feast; let me first scourge Him and then I will let Him go,” Pilate said, hoping to placate them.
“No!” they cried. “We do not want this Man—we want Barabbas!” Not believing his ears, Pilate appealed to the crowd: “Who would you have me release to you?”
“Give us Barabbas!” they shouted in unison. “Crucify Jesus!”
When Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has He done?”, the crowd continued their frenzied cries of “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:1-25).
Symbolically washing his hands of the matter, Pilate released Barabbas, a robber and murderer (Matt. 27:24). Beaten, bruised, swollen, weary and humiliated, the One who was innocent took the place of one deserving death.
With Christ’s fate sealed, Pilate sent Him to be scourged and crucified—one of the most excruciating and reprehensible forms of death Satan-inspired minds could ever devise.
“Marred More Than Any Man”
Stripped of His clothes, and His pain-racked body bound in place, Jesus readied Himself for what would come next. A well-trained, physically fit Roman soldier—having learned to administer scourging without mercy—wielded the sharp, metal-tipped whip across Jesus’ naked body with brutal efficiency. The air cracked with the sound of each lash and was filled with cries of agony. Again and again, the soldier found his mark. The sharp pieces of metal dug deep into Christ’s once powerful body, ripping and tearing away flesh. Blood ran from open wounds. Under the proficiency of His tormentor, it was not long until Isaiah 52:14 was fulfilled: “Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (NKJV). He was literally beaten beyond recognition.
Some cuts were so deep that His bones became visible. The beating so severe, they were pulled out of joint (Psa. 22:14, 17)!
With Jesus now close to death, the scourging stopped. Now it was time for other soldiers to have some “fun.” They made a crown of thorns and forcibly pushed it on Christ’s throbbing head. Placing a scarlet robe over Him and a reed in His right hand, they mocked Him. “Hail, King of the Jews” came the humiliating epitaphs. They seized the reed and struck Him with it, while spitting in His face.
Christ took this beating so that “by [His] stripes [we may be] healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). Our physical sins could now be forgiven.
Badly disfigured, Jesus was led into the street. Those who saw Him were horrified.
In this weakened condition, Christ was forced to carry the heavy burden of an instrument of death: the stake to which He would soon be nailed. Fatigued from His prolonged ordeal, He collapsed under its weight to the cold, hard street. A soldier mercilessly barked, “Get up!” Unable to do so, Simon of Cyrene was pulled from the crowd and ordered to carry the stake for Him.
With each painful step, Christ made one last journey in loving service to mankind. With an ever-growing crowd following along, He finally made it to Golgotha, “the place of the skull” on a hill just outside Jerusalem (Mark 15:15-22). There He was nailed to the stake, with two criminals by His side, to endure a slow, excruciating death.
The torment continued. With flies swarming over His festering wounds, His naked body racked with pain, those who looked on jeered, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God” (Matt. 27:42-43).
Through parched lips and with a swollen tongue, Christ uttered the words, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Unfazed by the magnitude of Christ’s suffering, the soldiers standing guard divided His garments by casting lots.
Completely Cut Off
Christ had always been able to rely on His Father. He knew that through reliance on Him, and maintaining close personal contact through prayer, no trial or difficulty was too great to overcome. During His ministry, Jesus’ prayers were heard many times. He needed only to look back to His greatest miracle—raising Lazarus from the dead—and recall the words He spoke that day: “I thank You that You have heard Me. And I knew that You hear Me always” (John 11:41-42).
Even when the mob came to arrest Him in Gethsemane, Jesus could have called on God’s deliverance. “Think you that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
As dark clouds blocked out the afternoon light, it seemed Christ could not count on the Father, who had helped Him through the past 33½ years of physical life. Hanging from the stake, filled with horrific pain and in terrible anguish, having come to His greatest hour of need, He was left alone, completely abandoned.
At about 3 p.m., Jesus mustered what strength remained and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). These were not empty words. His cry reflected His innermost feelings. Jesus was fully human, even though God was His Father. He was born of a woman and was capable of feeling, in mind and body, all that any man could.
At that moment, Jesus experienced something He had never known. Having existed from eternity, first as the Word, and then in the flesh as the Son of God, there had always been contact with the Father. And now, the realization hit. For the first time, He was completely alone—totally cut off from His Father. Their unbroken contact was now severed.
For “[God] had made [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). Yes, “the Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Jesus had mankind’s sins laid upon Him, becoming sin for us.
And because “your iniquities have separated you from your God…your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2, NKJV). The Father had no choice. Since He cannot compromise with sin, it meant He was forced to forsake—to abandon—His beloved Son.
The pain becoming almost unbearable, Jesus Christ now comprehended what it meant to be cut off from God. The help He had relied on so many times was no longer to be found. He knew that He—and He alone—was shouldering the totality of humanity’s sins—your sins. And this meant He would face the last moments of His life on earth fully cut off from the Father.
“It is Finished”
Crushed, almost drained of life, gasping for breath, and with each cell of His body nearly screaming in pain, “Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst!” (John 19:28).
Reacting to Jesus’ plea, someone retrieved a sponge, dipped it in sour wine and offered Him a drink. Hoping for a small amount of cool water to quench His thirst, instead He received foul-tasting vinegar (vs. 29; Matt. 27:48).
An onlooker said, “Leave Him alone, let us see if Elijah will come save Him” (Mark 15:36).
Christ’s suffering was almost finished. His long, drawn out trial for the sake of mankind was nearing its end. He had endured cruel mocking, savage beatings, taunts, humiliation, abandonment and total rejection. His formerly healthy body was a mangled mess of dislocated bones and joints, and bleeding flesh. He was barely recognizable to those who were close to Him.
Barely clinging to life, Jesus prepared Himself for what was to occur next. To all looking on, He proclaimed, “It is finished!”
Then, a soldier standing by took his spear and thrust it into Christ’s side. From this gaping wound poured water and blood (John 19:34). Only by shed blood can sin be forgiven (Lev. 17:11).
With one final agonizing scream, His lifeblood spilling to the ground, Jesus of Nazareth—the Savior of man—cried, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
Jesus Christ breathed His last breath (Luke 23:46, NKJV).
Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. And in service to man, He gave His life in perfect obedience to His Father. He gave His life so that we could receive eternal life.