Job is famous for his suffering. In the space of a few chapters, raiders capture his donkeys and camels, fire consumes his sheep and shepherds, and a tornado collapses a building on top of his sons and daughters (Job 1:13–19). Not only that, Job himself is afflicted with a loathsome skin disease (Job 2:7). Echoing Job and his friends, we immediately wonder, Why? Why did Job experience so much suffering? The book never gives us an answer.
But Job is not meant to give us a specific reason for suffering. Instead, Job points us to the person who suffered perfectly on our behalf.
Job is not meant to give us a specific reason for suffering. Instead, Job points us to the person who suffered perfectly on our behalf.
Both Job and Jesus Are Righteous
The story of Job opens with God’s description of Job: “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Job also vigorously protests his own righteousness (see Job 31). In a fallen world, Job is as good as they come: there were “none like him on earth” (Job 1:8).
Yet not even Job is perfect. He feels guilt over the sins of his youth, and he suspects he may have hidden sins as well (Job 13:23, 26). At the climax of the story, when Job sees God face to face, his first response is repentance (Job 40:4–5; 42:2–6). Nonetheless, God remains pleased with Job, calling him “my servant” (Job 42:7).
Jesus, of course, is perfectly righteous. Like Job, Jesus is described as God’s servant. Unlike Job, Jesus was also God’s beloved Son (Luke 9:35). Jesus was tempted dreadfully, even by the Devil himself; yet Jesus never sinned, not even once (Heb. 4:15). John, Christ’s best friend on earth, described him as “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Job was righteous in relative terms; Jesus was righteous in absolute terms, free from all sin and deceit (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22).
Both Job and Jesus Suffered
One of the most striking parallels between Job and Jesus comes at the moment of their deepest agony. We could even say that Job endured a kind of passion that foreshadows the passion of Christ. “Passion” comes from a Latin word meaning suffering or enduring. Christians use the term to describe the arrest, torture, and crucifixion of Christ. And in Job’s suffering, we see something of Christ.
Not only did Job lose his family and possessions, he suffered intense physical pain. His blackened skin, full of sores, disfigured him beyond recognition. His pain would not let him sleep (Job 30:16–18, 27–30).
Before his death, Christ also endured horrible bodily pain: flogging, a crown of thorns, and the torture of crucifixion itself.
But physical pain is not the only kind of suffering, and many times it is not the worst. Job was accused by his friends, scorned, and mocked: “Men have gaped at me with their mouth; they have struck me insolently on the cheek; they mass themselves together against me” (Job 16:10–11; 30:1–15). Job’s lament seems almost prophetic: Christ likewise faced mocking and betrayal, both from the crowds and even from his close friends.
Here’s a key difference between Job’s passion and Christ’s: God preserved Job’s life and did not allow Satan to kill him. In contrast, God did not spare the life of his beloved Son, but delivered him to his death. Christ, the ultimate suffering servant, made payment for Job’s sins as well, reconciling Job to his God for eternity. Job saw his salvation through a mirror dimly, pleading for an advocate and redeemer (Job 16:19; 19:25–27).
Job only thought that God had abandoned him. But Christ was, in fact, abandoned by God as he took on our sin at the cross, crying: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Both Job and Jesus Fought a Spiritual Battle
Job’s suffering had a hidden, spiritual component. In the opening scenes, Satan questioned Job’s loyalty to God, and God allowed Satan to test Job. But Job did not know that he was the subject of a heavenly contest. Job’s friends, of course, were even more in the dark. They wrongly assumed Job was being punished for his sins.
Christ was engaged in an even greater contest, for the fate of the world itself. As with the story of Job, this struggle was not visible to those around him. The crowds cheered as Jesus was whipped and crucified for alleged blasphemy and treason. In reality, Jesus was paying the penalty for our blasphemy and treason against the God of the universe.
Here we see another key difference between Job and Christ. Job frequently didn’t submit to God’s plan for his life. In his speeches, Job curses the day of his birth, accuses God of acting capriciously, and demands that God appear and explain himself. Job was not content; in fact, he hated his life (Job 9:21; 10:1).
But Christ knew the agony of the cross would entail body and soul, and he still submitted to the Father’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he fell to the ground and sweated blood. Yet he prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:41–44). Christ suffered knowingly and willingly; he obeyed God’s will.
Both Job and Jesus Were Restored
At the end of the narrative, God restored Job’s fortunes, blessing him with double the wealth, a full house of children, and many happy years (Job 42:10–17). His lengthy tale of woe, at last, had a happy ending.
Even more miraculously, that first Easter Sunday, God raised Jesus from the dead (Luke 24). The restoration didn’t stop there. Because of Christ’s obedience to the point of death, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9–10).
Just as Job’s family was restored to him, the suffering of Christ restores a heavenly family.
Just as Job’s family was restored to him, the suffering of Christ restores a heavenly family. Believers are re-born into the family of God, the brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of Christ (Heb. 2:11–13).
Job Interceded for His Friends, but Jesus Saves His Enemies
As the book of Job concludes, God rebukes Job’s friends for speaking improperly. God then instructs the friends to make sacrifices and have Job pray for them (Job 42:7–9). Job the righteous, who suffered, interceded for his friends and pleaded for God’s mercy.
Christ is the even better intercessor. Christ is at God’s right hand praying for us eternally (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). Since the beginning of time, Satan has been the accuser, pointing out our sins; yet Christ is the great Redeemer who reconciles us to God. And he saves—not people who were formerly his friends but people who were his enemies (Rom. 5:8–10).
Whatever our affliction, we can take comfort in knowing our suffering is part of a greater struggle. Christ tells us to expect trouble in this world (John 16:33). When we endure trials with hope, we are following in the footsteps of Job and other godly men and women (Heb. 11:32–12:3). And in a mysterious way, like the passion of Job, our own sufferings reflect the passion of Christ, waiting for the day when all of God’s family will be restored (Col. 1:24).