Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah”…Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8.29, 31).
Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. He said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John…(saying) to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death”…And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14.32-33a, 34a, 35-36).
Jesus’ instruction to his disciples of his destiny of death and resurrection was not an expression of knowledge. For knowledge, necessarily, is the fruit of experience; the product of reflection on and interpretations and applications of a past occurrence. Jesus’ declaration, then, was purely a matter of faith; his trust, his conviction that the prophetic word he had received from God would be fulfilled.
Later, at Gethsemane, Jesus, nearing the end of his ministry, prayed, decrying his destiny.
(This, I understand! For I, given the choice, would not desire to die, even if I thought my sacrifice was in keeping with God’s will. Moreover, death, if not soon, will find me surely enough!)
And then, Jesus, a person of faith, remained faithful, submitting himself to what was to come.
I think that Christians, knowing how the story ended (and continues), at times, speak and pray a bit too jubilantly about Jesus’ approach to his crucifixion; a path that wended its way through an excruciating series of humiliations:
The betrayal by a follower…
A false arrest…
The desertion and denial by other disciples…
A sham of a trial…
An illegal conviction and condemnation…
A brutal beating…
Finally, being hoisted upward, nailed and bound to a cross, to die by suffocation.
Yes, there is an undeniable element of triumphalism at the heart of all celebration. Moreover, celebration is an act of certainty.
Yet I think that too often we Christians act as if Jesus – as one facing a delicate and dangerous surgery performed countless times and always successfully – bore his cross with a confidence embracing, embodying a certainty of knowledge about the outcome. Nay. Again, knowledge always is a gift of reflection, never projection.
Nevertheless, there were two certainties operative on that first Good Friday.
One, death. The only outcome of crucifixion.
And the second. Jesus’ sure faith.
© 2021 PRA