The Pain and Suffering of Jesus
“Pain” – From Latin: poena, meaning” torment, hardship”; ” condition one feels when hurt, opposite of pleasure” and “punishment.” “Suffering” – From Latin: sufferer, meaning “to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under.”
The Pain and Suffering of Jesus (Catechism and Bible references noted; for other references regarding the pain and suffering of Jesus, see footnote below).
- Experiences the pain of being human – Jesus “became flesh in assuming a true humanity“ (CCC 476) and felt the many physical and emotional pains of being human. Thomas Aquinas assures us that “Christ endured every human suffering” and that “Christ’s pain was the very greatest.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae; III, q. 46).
- From an early age, Jesus feels a longing for the Father – At 12, Jesus feels the longing for God in the temple, though He obediently returns with Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:41-50).
- Suffers during the Temptation – Jesus fasts for 40 days and felt hunger (Matt 4:2).
- Lives a physically demanding life – A first century carpenter needed great physical strength and stamina and Jesus experienced fatigue and soreness. As itinerant preacher, Jesus walked many miles (one source suggests almost circumference of the earth; 25,000 miles) and felt fatigue.
- Anticipates the great suffering of the Passion – As early as the Marriage at Cana, Jesus realizes that His “Hour” is coming (John 2:4). He predicts His Crucifixion and death multiple times.
- Feels sorrow – Prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). Later, after the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus poignantly laments and weeps over the waywardness of the people of Israel (Matt 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44).
- Experiences the desecration of His Father’s House – He violently cleanses the temple of the money-changers and traders which He refers to as a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). The disciples interpret Christ’s emotion as “zeal” (John 2:17).
- The poignancy of the Last Supper – We can imagine that Jesus experienced both joy but also poignant sorrow at the trials He would face, the betrayal/death of Judas and the scattering and coming anguish of the disciples.
- Experiences agony in Garden of Gethsemane – Knowing from practical and His Divine experience of the horrors of crucifixion, He prays, alone, uncomforted by His sleeping disciples. Jesus sweats blood (Luke 22:44), a rare and painful condition called hematidrosis that occurs during times of great stress/mental suffering, leaving the skin extremely tender and fragile. Dehydration has begun.
- Experiences the failure of His disciples – In the Garden, Jesus experiences the betrayal of Judas, who ironically betrays Him with a kiss (Luke 22:48) and the violence of Peter (Luke 22:51). Predicting that Peter will deny Him, Jesus then witnesses Peter’s denial (Luke 22:61).
- Goes without food, drink and sleep – From the Last Supper, Jesus goes without food, water or sleep during a time of significant stress and physical exertion. He is forced to walk over 2 miles as He is paraded before the Jewish leadership, Pilate and Herod.
- Is beaten and brutally scourged – There are several instances where Jesus is struck in the face and head (Matt 26:67 27:30) causing bruising and swelling. His nose was battered and swollen. The scourging (Matt 27:26) ripped His flesh in places to the bone, leaving over 120 wounds over His back, sides, legs and arms which ooze blood/plasma.
- His head is punctured with the crown of thorns – The nail-like thorns penetrated the skin in many places and perhaps the skull, causing great pain and a marked loss of blood (Matt 27:29).
- Struggles with the Cross – Jesus carries the Cross with help from Simon of Cyrene (John 19:17) a distance of almost ½ mile uphill. The Cross is heavy (100-200 pounds) bruising His shoulders. He falls three times scraping the skin off His knees.
- Is Crucified – Weakened, He is nailed to the Cross with iron spikes that were driven through His palms and feet (John 25:20). The nerve density makes these wounds particularly painful and there was a significant loss of blood.
- Mentally suffers on the Cross – He waits for death, watching Mary, John and others grieve for Him. He feels sorrow for those who kill Him, asking “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He cries out to the Father in anguish (Matt 27:46).
- Physically suffers and dies on the Cross – For three long hours, His many wounds hurt. He struggles to relieve the searing nerve pain and ripping flesh by nails. His shoulders ache as the joints are pulled. He thirsts due to lack of water and dehydration from blood loss and sweating. His painful cause of death by some combination of loss of blood, shock and asphyxiation.
The Two Questions
Question 1 – What aspects of Jesus’ pain and suffering touches you most?
Question 2 – How can the example of Jesus help you in your own pain and suffering?
 Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary (Fort Collins, Roman Catholic Books, reprint 1993); William D. Edwards – On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ (The Journal of American Medical Association, March 21, 1986; V 256); Frederick T. Zugibe, A Forensic Way of the Cross (International Science Symposium, March 2000).