Did Jesus suffer more than any other human being?

  • Question 201, from S, Lebanon

    Is Jesus the person that has been most hurt? Aren’t people dead and being destroyed by war more hurt than Jesus (e.g. the loss of innocent children)? Jesus did miracles while he was on earth – why doesn’t he do interventions on wars or at least keep innocent people safe while war?

    The idea that Jesus suffered more than any other human being often appears in Christian writings, however it is an impossible claim to prove.

    While the death of Jesus was horrifically cruel, crucifixion was a very common mode of execution in the Roman Empire. The gospel account record that the speed of Jesus’ death surprised the Roman soldiers who would have been responsible for many crucifixions. This is why they tested whether Jesus was really dead by stabbing him with a spear (see John chapter 19, verse 34).

    While Jesus did receive a brutal flogging before being crucified, that was probably something that happened to many prisoners before they were crucified. Other aspects of the trial of Jesus will have added to his suffering, but it would be hard to claim this was greater than every other human being who has been subjected to similar terrible acts.

    From a theological point of view, there is the idea that as the Son of God and part of the Trinity, Jesus also experienced these actions in his divine nature. In a sense then, Jesus’ suffering takes on an eternal dimension. This ‘theology of the cross’ increases the scale of Jesus’ earthly sufferings, as they are now experienced by God, who is infinite, unlike humans who are finite. Humans have a release from pain through death, while God does not.

    The third element of this question – about God not intervening in wars is part of the classic argument against the existence of a benevolent God known as the ‘problem of Evil’. There are various philosophical approaches to answering this question, including that God allows evil to happen because that is the only way to guarantee genuine free will for human beings.

    Philosophical answers are not particularly comforting to people suffering the effects of warfare. The lack of divine intervention remains a very real problem in any theology that wants to assert God’s goodness and omnipotence.

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