I’ve been reading a book together with my older son–Behold the King of Glory, by Russ Ramsey. It is a beautifully written narrative of the Gospel account, of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The next-to-last chapter recounts the story (from Luke 24) of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance and conversation with 2 disciples, one of whom was named Cleopas. Here’s a portion of what Ramsey writes:
But neither Cleopas nor the religious leaders in Jerusalem could recognize Jesus as the Christ because they were looking for someone other than what the prophets foretold, a pattern other than what Scripture laid out for them. They expected someone who would rise from a position of power and crush his enemies. Though the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s certain travail, Jesus’s own peers saw his agony as evidence against his claim that he was the Christ. And by forsaking the story of God’s redeeming work among them up to this point, a story whose pattern was that suffering preceded glory, they were blinded from knowing their Savior by way of his suffering.
The stranger took Cleopas and his wife through the Scriptures, from the books of Moses to the Prophets, showing them how suffering and humility were woven together into every story of God’s redeeming grace. God did this because his call on the lives of his people was not to a life of freedom from him, but to a life of utter dependence upon him….
This was…the story the stranger on the road told [Cleopas]. The arm of the Lord has been revealed. The Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, grew up in humility, like a tender shoot out of dry ground. He had no majesty that anyone would give any attention to, no beauty that we would desire him. His glory would be preceded by his suffering. He was despised and rejected by his own people, a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief. As one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and without esteem. But he came to bear the sorrows of his own, to carry our grief, though even while he was in the midst of such travail, we regarded him as afflicted and smitten by God.
But he was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities and sins. God put upon him the punishment that would bring us peace, because all of us, like sheep, have wandered away from the fold. We have chosen paths of our own, and the Maker has laid our rebellion on his Christ.
Before his accusers, he did not open his mouth to defend himself. Like a lamb to the slaughter, he did not resist the will of his Father. Under the darkness of oppression and deceit, he was led away, cut off from among his own people. They humiliated him, killing him like a criminal, though he had committed no crime nor spoken a word of deceit.
He did all of this because it was the Lord’s will to crush him. His soul would become an offering for our guilt. But on the other side of all this suffering, he would find the satisfaction of being the righteous servant of the Lord who would make many to be accounted righteous.
He was numbered among the transgressors, but he bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to our sin and live in the freedom of his righteousness.
Though he was in the form of God, he came to us as a tiny baby, born in the likeness of man to a poor mother in a stable outside of David’s town. He made himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant, and humbled himself through his obedience to the will of his Father, an obedience that led him to his horrific death on the cross.
We were like straying sheep, but by his grace we have been returned to the Shepherd of our souls. Behold the Man of Sorrows. Through his agony and by his wounds we have been healed.
[the author’s paraphrased quotes are from Isaiah 53, Philippians 2:5-8, and I Peter 2:24-25]
The pattern of God’s story is that suffering precedes glory. That is how we recognize our Savior, and that is how the world sees Christ through us.