Dying, Jesus Suffered & Bore the Pain of All Sins; So, He Healed Them, All

On the Cross, Jesus in his omniscience knew, and so suffered, felt, endured, all the agony of all creaturely defections, and of all their vicious consequences.

Omniscience eternally and always knows all of that, of course. But in time, and in Jesus, he knows it particularly, and so, acutely, on the Cross. As a man, God knows all the pain of all his creatures, just as we know each our own pain. A staggering thought.

Indeed it is by the suffering of Jesus that omniscience knows the suffering of his creatures; that, i.e., the suffering of his creatures just is the suffering of Jesus. Matthew 25:40.

All creaturely pain was in Jesus on the Cross. And he took it, all, subsuming it to himself; he bore it, as we bear the pains of quotidian life. Not just on the Cross does he do this, of course, but throughout his eternal life. Yet on the Cross he bore it in his human nature, corporeally and concretely, at a particular moment in a particular human life. This he had to do, for our sakes, so that we might afterward ascend with and like him to glory, no longer constrained by our own self-imposed limits – no longer determined to everlasting death, in alienation from him.

He had to hurt as we do – he had to suffer our pain – so as to address exactly and so heal our hurts (rather than those of some other sort of being). This is one aspect of the mighty manifold reason for the Incarnation.

Then, when he rose again – within our little world, and according to its basic lawful terms (which must be observed, by anything that in our world happens) – he showed that creaturely defection cannot and so does not triumph – anywhere, under any conditions whatever. So, he triumphed in fact, despite all the bloody imperfections of the sacrificial rite that is made necessary under the terms of our dear old cosmos (regulated as she is under the inexorable Law of Compensation (known also as the Conservation Laws)), and mediated by sloppy mistaken creaturely officers thereof, by which he thus effected victory for all things of all times: ex opere operato.

He took into himself and in himself overwhelmed all pain, all the way up to and including death. He overcame it, all; he conquered it, all; so doing, he superseded it, transcended it, and thus ended its otherwise incorrigible dominance over us – over any creature of our Fallen world – opening our horizons (in principle, and should we agree) to an endless boundless expanse of glory, adventure, power, and joy. Our Original Nature, from which we had before Fallen helplessly, ergo endlessly – permanently, i.e. (such being the character of the lives of the damned, who have in the end disagreed with their own rescue and salvation (and so with their own natures)) – he restored at Calvary.

He defeated evil – indeed extinguished it (that work is done, even though it will take a while yet for its effects to be completely felt in the course of time) – by pouring forth the infinite good needed to compensate for the otherwise insurmountable desolation that creaturely defection had inflicted upon all creatures. His Passion is the ontological payment – the compensation, under the Law of Compensation (that rules worlds per se, properly so called, and in virtue of which they cohere causally, so as to attain cosmic integrity, and thus actuality) – for all the damage creatures of our world shall ever have inflicted upon themselves, and each other.

We may partake of his victory, but only insofar and inasmuch as we partake his suffering; only, that is to say, insofar and inasmuch as we reckon our own suffering as ontologically first his.

To offer up my own suffering on the altar then – a sine qua non of successful spiritual life – is just to recognize, and to admit into my psychic economy, that all I have suffered is suffered already by Jesus, from before the foundation of the world, and indeed as its very foundation. It is to realize that my suffering is his before it was ever mine (NB: logically before, but not temporally before).

No creature can suffer except insofar and inasmuch as Jesus forever and always suffers. Nor by the same token can any creature act, so as to be actual, except insofar and inasmuch as Jesus forever and always acts.

That Jesus suffers all things is implicit in his omniscience. This is to say that there just is omniscience; that, i.e., there is God. Were Jesus not omniscient in his divine Nature, he could not suffer all things, or therefore redeem and rescue them. Some things might then outpass the scope of his salvific power; his redemption of the world would then be incomplete, thus frustrated. So then likewise would his creation of the world be incomplete, thus frustrated: we would then have no world.

If Jesus does not suffer all things, he does not effect salvation for all things (that will take it). So, he must suffer all things (even, indeed, the horrors of those who decide in the end to reject him). But in that case, he must be omniscient; he must, i.e., be God. So there must be God.

But because there is God, so is there then also omnipotence: the power to do all good that can be done.[1] In virtue of which, we may feel sure, our future is permanently secured.

So then may we rest at last in confidence; so that we may march forth together in array of battle, against all error and wickedness, without worry as to the ultimate outcome of the day’s combat, or even as to our frailty and failures in the fight. These, too, the foibles of his faithful vassals, our great Captain has by his sacrifice redeemed.


[1] Power to do evil – as with the power of creatures – is after all power to do some lesser good than might be done, mutatis mutandis. God has not that power.

11 thoughts on “Dying, Jesus Suffered & Bore the Pain of All Sins; So, He Healed Them, All

  1. And also especially in the 3 hours of darkness endured eternal torment as the penalty for all our sins. Such was the due penalty for all our wickedness and corruption.

    Being God he was able to suffer on our behalf in such a timespan.

  2. Kristor, I admit that I have trouble discerning this aspect of the spiritual life. It just seems so bizarre and incomprehensible to me — like Japanese anime (pardon the bathetic comparison). It just strikes me as alien — that scandal of the cross at the apparent heart of the gospel. But even I, naturally blind as I am in these matters, see how suffering can lead to spiritual growth. Nietzsche observes as much — I think in _Beyond Good and Evil_ — where he notes how suffering leads to spiritual depth, despite (or because of) its disfigurement of the naive soul. I’m probably butchering the idea, but it made an impression on me years ago. With Freddy (so remembered), I agree — based on the evidence of those holy and of others not so — though I don’t understand the “mechanism” of how it works. How can suffering lead to spiritual growth?

    “That Jesus suffers all things is implicit in his omniscience.”

    This is brilliant. Your post is like Irenaeus’ theology of recapitulation with an extended focus on Golgotha.

    Nonetheless, please allow me to profane the idea — to incarnate it for those who, like me, get lost and anxious when even lightly touched by the dark cloud of unknowing.

    To my fleshy eyes, suffering’s value may have to do with our being forced to confront parts of reality that we would rather avoid. Left to our own devices, without compulsion or necessity, we’d dwell on delightful objects and neglect those less attractive. Such a focus distorts our understanding — and thus inhibits our maturation. Suffering is fundamentally being forced to experience unwillingly, right? But that very experience teaches us important lessons about objects that we’d rather not see, including our own reactions in duress. Getting a clearer view of the world and ourselves improves our perspective — and makes us more aware of the difficulties involved, which thereby increases our patience and tolerance for others when they (so often and so egregiously) fail. But for the grace of God . . .

    And just so — seeing the world for what it is is to see the world as utterly dependent on God. It isn’t too difficult to adopt such metaphysics as a partisan for a school of thought — but to live them honestly and consistently — well, such a call caused the rich young man to walk away in despair. Without grace, we lack the required awareness of our debt — and so the proper humility, gratitude, and renunciation of the self — to behave justly. Suffering for Christ, I suppose, is like special forces’ exercises for the soul. A painful regimen that prepares one for higher duties.

    • Suffering is a funny word that can mean both to permit and to undergo unwillingly. So far as ordinary humans are concerned, suffering under either definition chastens what Freud called the pleasure principle and strengthens what Freud called the reality principle. As the great pessimist philosopher Puddleglum said, it steadies a chap by teaching him that life is not all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.

      “I’m not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say—I mean, the other wiggles all say—that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum.’ They’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this—a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen—will be just the thing. If that don’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”

      Suffering does not invariably impart spiritual depth. Sometimes the pleasure principle is wounded rather than chastened, the result being an infantile cynic who has all the silliness of a child and none of the charm. Silliness is at the heart of this. Suffering knocks the silliness out of us. It’s hard to think of Christ as silly, but we do believe he was altogether a man.

      • My experience is that intense suffering tends to push us either toward sanctity and joy, or toward nihilism, atheism, and despair. It is our test. As Viktor Frankl insists, our share of suffering – our personal, particular cross – is headed our way, willy nilly. Our power lies not in preventing it – even though we are obliged to prevent such evils as we righty can – but in our response to it, whether of despair or of trust.

        “I wish it need not have happened in my time,“ said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

        As to silliness, I have found that the most serious, dangerous, painful adventures of life are often occasions of profound hilarity, shared amongst those who find they must suffer them. That deep, deeply satisfying silliness of the graveyard, the trenches, and the shipwreck does not at all, however, detract from the seriousness, the danger, the pain of the circumstances. On the contrary; it can relevate and intensify the basic beauty of the tragedy. And that in turn can render the humor noble, high, and lovely.

        To sit with friends and tell stories about the silly, funny things a dead companion did or said, and to laugh at them together until the guts clench and the tears flow, is to mourn most properly, to glorify and honor and love the dead, and to valedict. It is also to learn from his life, and so to anneal it, and him, more perfectly to our own, so that he lives on in us.

    • Joseph A, your comment spoke to me, as I have wrangled with these questions myself. I don’t have any answers for you, but I wanted to offer some thoughts that were consoling to me and helped me to grok the whole idea, in the hopes that they will do the same for you.

      I learned from Brant Pitre, I think, that in the time of Moses in Egypt, the Jews would get a sacrificial lamb (or goat, something like that) and they would gather around it and they would extend their hands, touch the lamb, and impart their sins upon it–half remembered, possibly by speaking their sins, otherwise by prayerfully committing their sins to this lamb. Then, they would kill the lamb and their sins would be absolved.

      This took on a new character after the passover, when the lambs both had this sacrificial character (taking on our sins and then being killed) but also the protective character (their blood stains our doorposts and protects us). The way that sacrificial lambs were brought to Jerusalem at the time of the Annunciation was cruciform–the lambs were splayed on a cross and brought to the temple to be sacrificed.

      Christ, as sacrificial lamb, took on our sins the way the lambs took on the sins of the Jews in Egypt; Christ’s blood protects us the way the lambs blood on the doorpost protected the Jews at the Passover; Christ was Crucified the way sacrificial lambs were in Christ’s own day, that our sins would be forgiven.

      Brant Pitre is a much better teacher of this information than I, so I recommend him. He has written a lot and I have read very little so I could be misremembering things. Worth double checking me.

      The second thing I wanted to share was that there is a specific amount of suffering every person in heaven will endure. Any suffering we do not endure here on earth, we will endure in Purgatory. The ultimate end of suffering in Purgatory is perfect holiness, because by the purgative fire we will be cleansed of our sins and have nothing left in us but the love of God. We can take on some of that purgation here on earth, and the effect is the same. If we take on suffering here, or unite the suffering that is given to us with the suffering of Christ, then it kills everything in us except the love of God, and makes us holier the way purgatory will make us the holiest we will ever be.

      Again–I don’t think either of these thoughts answers your specific concerns in your comment, but they were interesting and consoling to me, so I hope they are the same to you.

      • Thanks, Scoot. I second your recommendation of Pitre; the guy’s books are chock full of crunchy and deeply satisfying factoids.

        One point of clarification of the doctrine of Purgatory, which it is important to clear up because it is so often confused by critics thereof: it does not cleanse us of our sins, for it is not possible to get into Purgatory in the first place except as already cleansed (by baptism, confession, repentance, penance, and absolution). It rather burns away our residual attachments to sins, still working in us as habits, predilections, temptations. When I am absolved after confession and penance, I am clean of sin. But, lo, I’m still beset by concupiscence, and it always seems to trip me up again, sooner or later. It is the concupiscence that Purgatory burns away: the moral and personal wages of sin still remnant at death. Purgatory is the expurgation of the last vestiges of the Body of Death.

    • Thanks, Joseph. Your engagement with this topic means much to me.

      How can suffering lead to spiritual growth?

      Suffering is the recognition – the aesthetic feeling – of the aesthetic difference between what now is and what ought properly to be. Think of the cognitive dissonance that would arise from trying to think honestly that 2 + 2 = 5. Of such is the suffering of our ontological disagreement with the Lógos.

      When we hurt, we feel what it is like to disagree in our intentions with th order of things as they are.

      Orwell was on to this. Winston is expected – is forced – to disagree with reality.

      Suffering then – the feeling of the difference between the way things are and the way we feel they ought to be, could best be, in Justice and in Truth – is the value of the urge that we feel to mend our apprehensions of such differences, so as to come again into an aesthetically manifest, concretely felt agreement with Truth, and so with being as such: with, i.e., our Lord the Lógos, I AM.

      So, when we suffer pain, what we are feeling is our urge – our personal share in the general urge of the cosmos – to get right with God. A good thing!

      So is it that our apprehension of pain, as welcomed and admitted to our internal economies, rather than as fought and resisted – as being, i.e., a guide to our proximate correction, rather than an adversary – can furnish for us an avenue to reconciliation with our Lord, and so in and with him to the eventual elimination of all pain.

      Are you in pain? Look at that pain; examine it, dive into it, without resistance or fear. In it you may find (indeed you almost certainly shall find) a guide to the correction of the problem that gave it first rise. Or, failing that, a reason that it is lots better (so far as we are here below yet given to understand) for you to suffer that pain, than to be healed of it anytime soon.

      Pain being a measure of the disagreement of our desires with reality, to offer up our pain to Christ is to agree that reality – the Provenance of the Lógos – is real above all, supernal and subvenient to all, the forecondition and foundation of all things, so that our desires are in comparison to his eternal justice … not yet real, not yet realized.

      Not that our desires shall not be reckoned by Omniscience, and by Omnipotence properly attended. In logic, such a perverse outcome would rule out logic per se.

      Rest assured that he who endures to the end shall be saved from all pain. Our present pain is no more than, and just like, the pain of the athlete running his heart out. We don’t need to win. We just need to get to the finish line, having done our utmost.

      To my fleshy eyes, suffering’s value may have to do with our being forced to confront parts of reality that we would rather avoid.

      Exactly, yes. Suffering is just coming to grips with what is real, versus what we should like. The more we fight that recognition, the harder and more painful our fight. To us; not to Reality, adamantine and implacable, with whom (with Joshua) we ever fight, the dear man, the dear dour difficult angel. He puts our hips out of joint. Yet in the morning we rejoice, and establish and raise to him an altar – and so, a society, a civilization.

      Suffering is fundamentally being forced to experience unwillingly, right?

      Rather, suffering just is experiencing. The past forces itself upon our experience willy nilly. Much of it is painful; some, not so much. Indeed, most of it is gorgeous. But, all of it is at least a bit painful; touched and colored by our general mundane tragedy. Such is the character of Fallen life.

      Without grace, we lack the required awareness of our debt – and so the proper humility, gratitude, and renunciation of the self – to behave justly.

      Awareness as such, and ab initio, is an operation of grace. It is an effect of a prior creative act, with which it had itself beforehand nothing at all to do, and to the inception of which it contributed nothing (for, prior to the inception of its actuality, it had itself no ontological resources sufficient to any influence – indeed, it had in itself to begin with nothing at all, whatever – such as would have been needful to bring it into actual existence in the first place). Injustice begins with the notion that we are in some measure our own origin, that we are a bit sui generis: that we ourselves got ourselves going, so that we are at bottom independent. That this notion is obvious nonsense, not just in terms of ontology but of phenomenology (we find ourselves thrown into being, as Heidegger puts it) cuts no ice, in the mind of the proud. The proud can see no further than the bounds of their own selves. So they see themselves as their own origins, despite the obvious logical falsehood of that supposition.

      Pain is a guide to our reconciliation with reality. To fight the pain is to fight reality. It is to kick against the pricks. Acts 9:5. So, to welcome our peculiar pain, the pain allotted to us under heaven – not so as to accede to it, or to agree with it, or to despair of its correction and so surrender to it, but so as to listen to it – is to take up our cross. Matthew 16:24-26.

      Suffering for Christ, I suppose, is like special forces’ exercises for the soul. A painful regimen that prepares one for higher duties.

      The Seals say that the pain of training is the feeling of weakness leaving the body as it prepares for war.

  3. “On the Cross, Jesus in his omniscience knew, and so suffered, felt, endured, all the agony of all creaturely defections, and of all their vicious consequences.”

    Kristor, I think this began in The Garden (“could ye not watch with me one hour? “), its physical manifestation in the sweating of blood. Of course, by “on the cross” you could mean the whole of His Passion. I have a good man to back me up.

    • Indeed, sub specie aeternitatis, the Passion is the suffering of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It is eternal, that is to say; so that it is the foundation of the world. This to say no more than that Omniscience is the foundation of the world.

      In history, the Passion began at Bethlehem; the gifts of the Magi are its first foreshadows. The life of Jesus is a mighty continuous crescendo, that concluded – for a time – with an earth shattering climax on the Cross.


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