The Immensity of Sin-His Real Suffering

the immensity of sin his real suffering

Image: The Crucifixion by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1627 [Art Institute of Chicago]. The canvas was painted for the monastery of San Pablo el Real in Seville, Spain. Zurbarán portrays the Lord “suspended outside of time and place.” *

The Immensity of Sin- His Real Suffering

It is impossible to look upon the image of this tortured, disfigured image of the Messiah- the Son of God- without grimacing, blinking, wanting to gaze anywhere but at that. At the visual reenactment of His Passion, we are sickened and horrified. So much so that many of us have removed it from our crosses, altars and churches. This is too depressing, we should focus on his resurrection, we tell ourselves. Even St. Paul tells us that if he had not risen…then our faith is in vain. Conveniently overlooking St. Paul’s single refrain, echoed over and over in all of his letters, that he can boast of nothing but the cross.

And yet, I have come to understand, this inconceivably brutalizing torment during the scourging and crucifixion is not the source of his real suffering.

Instead, it is the immensity of sin-his real suffering.

For us, it’s commonplace:

An adulterous affair here, broken promise and few lies there, using His name as epithet and gossiping about the new boss; one in eight women aborting our babies…hatred, jealousy, envy. They are all part of daily human existence.

But not to Him.


He had to bear what is well known to us, what is familiar to us, but what to Him was woe unutterable. He had to bear that which is so easy a thing to us, so natural, so welcome, that we cannot conceive of it as of a great endurance, but which to Him had the scent and the poison of death—He had, my dear brethren, to bear the weight of sin; He had to bear your sins; He had to bear the sins of the whole world. Sin is an easy thing to us; we think little of it; we do not understand how the Creator can think much of it…


He became man, that He might suffer as man; and when His hour was come, that hour of Satan and of darkness, the hour when sin was to pour its full malignity upon Him, it followed that He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering;—as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living cooperation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well as in resignation, and said, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;” He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not lose it…


There, then, in that most awful hour, knelt the Saviour of the world, putting off the defences of His divinity, dismissing His reluctant Angels, who in myriads were ready at His call, and opening His arms, baring His breast, sinless as He was, to the assault of His foe,—of a foe whose breath was a pestilence, and whose embrace was an agony. There He knelt, motionless and still, while the vile and horrible fiend clad His spirit in a robe steeped in all that is hateful and heinous in human crime, which clung close round His heart, and filled His conscience, and found its way into every sense and pore of His mind, and spread over Him a moral leprosy, till He almost felt Himself to be that which He never could {337} be, and which His foe would fain have made Him.

Oh, the horror, when He looked, and did not know Himself, and felt as a foul and loathsome sinner, from His vivid perception of that mass of corruption which poured over His head and ran down even to the skirts of His garments! Oh, the distraction, when He found His eyes, and hands, and feet, and lips, and heart, as if the members of the Evil One, and not of God!

Are these the hands of the Immaculate Lamb of God, once innocent, but now red with ten thousand barbarous deeds of blood? are these His lips, not uttering prayer, and praise, and holy blessings, but as if defiled with oaths, and blasphemies, and doctrines of devils? or His eyes, profaned as they are by all the evil visions and idolatrous fascinations for which men have abandoned their adorable Creator?

And His ears, they ring with sounds of revelry and of strife; and His heart is frozen with avarice, and cruelty, and unbelief; and His very memory is laden with every sin which has been committed since the fall, in all regions of the earth, with the pride of the old giants, and the lusts of the five cities, and the obduracy of Egypt, and the ambition of Babel, and the unthankfulness and scorn of Israel…


“My soul is sorrowful even unto death,” He said. It has been said of that dreadful pestilence which now is upon us, that it begins with death; by which is meant that it has no stage or crisis, that hope is over when it comes, and that what looks like its course is but the death agony and the process of dissolution; and thus our Atoning Sacrifice, in a much higher sense, began with this passion of woe, and only did not die, because at His Omnipotent will His Heart did not break, nor Soul separate from Body, till He had suffered on the Cross.


St. John Henry Newman

The immensity of sin-his real suffering.

St. Paul explains.

“According to the law, almost everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness…but the heavenly realities called for better sacrifices. For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a mere copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself now on our behalf. …He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sins once for all by his sacrifice…”

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