“… And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and suffered and was buried.”
Jesus came into the world to save us and He knew that meant he would suffer and die. Jesus, although He had a genuine human body, was not subject to death because he was sinless. He allowed Himself to die to save us. We should remember that false teachers arose in the church who said that Jesus only appeared to suffer and die but in reality He did not suffer. This is actually similar to the Moslem view of Jesus’ death. The Moslems cannot believe that a prophet like Jesus could die on the cross. Some Moslems believe that God gave another person the appearance of Jesus and he died in Jesus’ place. There are other theories but they come down to the refusal to believe that Jesus actually suffered. But the Church knew from the beginning that His suffering and death were real and opposed that false teaching.
Jesus’ suffering and death were part of God’s plan from the beginning and it was prophesied in the book of Isaiah. In chapter Isaiah 53:3-5 we read
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.”
Scholars and church fathers alike believed that Jesus knew he was fulfilling this prophecy. It must be admitted that the Jewish people do not believe this passage is a prophecy about the Messiah because they do not believe that the Messiah would suffer. The book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament says
“…his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:23)
This is quoted in the New Testament
‘…Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal 3:13).
Both passages express the Jewish view that a crucified man could not be the Messiah. However, we as Christians affirm that Jesus’ suffering and death were part of God’s plan for the redemption of the human race. Jesus’ suffering was predicted to the Virgin Mary when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple. The elder Simeon said
“…and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35).
Jesus Himself knew he would suffer and predicted it to his apostles. For example
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.” Mt 17:22-23
“… for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him. “ (Mark 9:31-32)
However, no matter how many times He predicted His suffering and death the apostles did not really accept this until the resurrection. At one point the apostle James and John asked Jesus for positions of power in the Kingdom they thought He was going to establish. Jesus asked
“But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;…( Mark 10:38-39).
The cup and baptism, of course, refer to Jesus’ suffering and death, but the apostles did not understand that at that time. Finally we should look at the agony in the garden when Jesus prayed before his arrest. In Matthew 26:38-19 we read:
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
In other words, although Jesus Christ is the Son of God who suffered voluntarily in His humanity, He knew the pain he would endure and prayed that God the Father would strengthen Him. So we know that we are saved by Christ’s suffering and death “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 2:24), a death that conquered death and gives us eternal life.