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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Sharing in Christ's Sufferings

…That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11, New King James Version)

The above verse passage states that the apostle Paul wanted to share in Jesus’ sufferings so He could share in the resurrection. Throughout the New Testament we see many examples of Paul suffering. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and stoned numerous times. The same is true for many of Jesus’ followers in the early church. They all suffered for their faith in Jesus.

Suffering is inherently uncomfortable, so you are probably uncomfortable with the idea of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings. You may not be as eager to suffer as Paul was, and that’s alright. In fact, depending on where you live in the modern world, suffering like Jesus did may be nearly impossible. In the multicultural United States, you may be harassed for your Christian faith, but you are very unlikely to be tortured, imprisoned, exiled, or executed for it. But that doesn’t mean you cannot share in Jesus’ suffering.

Communion, among its many other benefits, allows the believer to take part in Jesus’ suffering. Deuteronomy 16:3 calls the unleavened bread of the Passover meal the “bread of affliction.” It is interesting that Jesus said in Luke 22:15 that He fervently “desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Jesus, the bread of life (John 6:35), wanted to eat the bread of affliction. He then broke His symbolic body for His disciples before He allowed the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers to break His physical body for all of His followers. The Bread of Life became the bread of affliction so that all people may enjoy the bread of life.

But there is one more important thing to know about the Passover. It was limited to those within the congregation of Israel. Exodus 12:43-49 prohibited foreigners from partaking in the Passover. The Passover commemorated what God did for Israel, not what God had done for everyone else. The foreigners had not suffered for 400 years in Egyptian slavery. God had not delivered them from captivity, through the Red Sea and wilderness, and into the Promised Land. They could not join in the celebration because they had not shared in the suffering. If they wanted to celebrate, they first had to undergo circumcision and place themselves in covenant with God to share in the suffering of His chosen people.

Likewise, you and I were not scourged by the Romans, hung on a tree as a curse, brutally executed, and buried in a borrowed tomb. We did not descend into Hell, overcome death, and resurrect ourselves to eternal victory. We were foreigners to Jesus’ suffering and unable to join with Him in celebration. Like the foreigners of old, you and I must choose to undergo spiritual circumcision and place ourselves under God’s new covenant to share in the suffering of His only begotten Son. This is why Paul wanted to share in Jesus’ suffering.

Accepting Jesus as Lord is the spiritual circumcision required by the new covenant. When we do this, we become part of His body. We are qualified to join the celebration. Now, when we come together at His table, instead of consuming the old covenant’s bread of affliction, we consume the new covenant’s bread of life. Jesus said in John 6:46, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” Through Communion, we share in Jesus’ suffering and proclaim His body and blood until He comes again!


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