The word “suffer,” in some form, is found 81 times in the New Testament. It is used of the trials through which Christians go, the physical calamities that come upon individuals, the eternal punishment awaiting the wicked, etc. But more than anything else in the New Testament, the word “suffer” is used (at least 27 times) of Christ and what He endured on behalf of mankind (i.e., on behalf of you and me). Slowly read through and consider what is said.
Christ Himself foretold what awaited Him in the days ahead. He knew that He would “suffer many things…be rejected, ad be killed” (Mark 8:31; cf. Matt. 16:21; Luke 9:22). Later He said again that He would “suffer many things and be treated with contempt…at their hands” (Mark 9:12; Matt. 17:12; cf. Luke 17:25). He desired to eat the Passover with His disciples, “Before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). Upon His resurrection, Christ “presented Himself alive after His sufferings” (Acts 1:3) and reaffirmed that it was “necessary for the Christ to suffer these things” (Luke 24:26, 46). Amazingly, none of this was a surprise to our Savior, for “God foretold by the mouth of all of His prophets, that that Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:18; cf. 26:23). Peter even referred to the Spirit who inspired those prophets as “the Spirit of Christ,” who “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:11).
As one would expect, the suffering of Christ was a central theme in the preaching of the apostles and early Christians. In fact, Paul’s “custom” involved “explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again” (Acts 17:3). The writer of Hebrews and the apostle Peter referenced the “sufferings” of Christ (by that term) more than any other New Testament writers. Christ came to this earth, being “made a little lower than the angels,” with His eye on “the suffering of death” (Heb. 2:9). He “suffered” (2:18), yes, He “suffered outside the gate” (13:12), and the text says that “He learned obedience” and was made “perfect” “by the things which He suffered” (2:10; 5:8).
Peter was particularly sensitive to this matter for a number of reasons, but certainly so because he was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 5:1). The apostle not only focused on the fact of Christ’s sufferings, but he gave particular emphasis to the reason “for” it. “Christ also suffered for us” (1 Pet. 2:21), yes, He “suffered for us in the flesh” (4:1). Why did He suffer for us? “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (3:18). There you have the whole point. Christ suffered and died. Not for Himself! But for us! And not just “for us,” but “for our sins.” And, why did He do that? “That He might bring us to God!” Thanks be to God for the love of our Savior and for all that He suffered for us!