Tuesday, April 2, 2013

3 Ways Jesus Could Have Avoided The Cross!

If you wanted to torture someone to death in the cruelest, most horrifying way - in a way that would not only be a long, drawn out, painful death, but also a completely humiliating one - it would be by crucifixion - no one survives it. It’s a death penalty.

Yes, Jesus was tortured to death. But here is what’s of utmost importance....Jesus could have escaped the cross if He wanted to! One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is this: Jesus was crucified only because He allowed it to happen!  

Although Jesus died on the cross, taking on the role of a sinner, He was totally innocent. He never sinned. He never broke the laws. He never deserved to be put to death. The truth is, His death on the cross was His intention! It was His mission, and nothing was going to stop Him. He went to the cross willingly.

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

What He was saying is that no one is capable of taking His life by force. There is no power, no authority, no force that is strong enough. Instead, Jesus as the Lamb of God, gave His life - offered His life as the sacrifice for our sins. He is the only sacrificial offering that satisfies the wrath of God for our sins. Jesus made clear His ultimate intention when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

Jesus could have escaped the cross if He had wanted to, at any time, at any place. But let's just look at His arrest scene alone. There we find no less than three chances where Jesus could have avoided being captured, but He chose not to.

Avoiding Arrest - Option #1 (Fight): The first instance involves Peter. If you remember, Judas had arranged to turn Jesus in for thirty pieces of silver. Judas came to the garden where Jesus had been praying, guiding a detachment of soldiers. When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” They were armed, ready to fight and defend Jesus. At that moment, Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

However, Jesus said, “No more of this!”  Jesus even reacted to Peter’s attack by touching the man’s ear and healing him, perfectly restoring the man’s ear. Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)

Later on, Jesus explains to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36) So you see, Jesus could have had His disciples fight to defend Him from arrest, but He chose not to. Instead of escaping arrest, He avoided confrontation, having His followers put their swords away.

Avoiding Arrest - Option #2 (Supernatural Power): The second instance where Jesus could have easily avoided being captured and arrested occurred right after He identified Himself to the mob. This time, in my view, it involved a miracle - an amazing demonstration of supernatural power. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am He,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground!" (John 18:4-6)  It seems that when Jesus identified Himself using the Holy Name of God, “I Am”,  there was power in those words.

Some people say that the soldiers were simply startled and stumbled backward. On the other hand, I visualize what happened as some sort of invisible, supernatural shock wave. When He says, ‘I Am He’, not only revealing Himself as the one they are looking for but as God in the flesh, they are knocked down. He could have not just knocked them down, but wiped them out!

I’m reminded of the verse that says, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11).

Avoiding Arrest- Option #3 (Angels): There's a third way Jesus could have easily avoided being captured and arrested. In the midst of the arrest scene, right after Peter cuts off the servant’s ear, Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Then Jesus made an amazing statement - a revealing statement. He said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” (Matthew 26:53 NLT)

At any instant, at any time, Jesus could have invoked the powers of Heaven to intervene for Him, immediately - on the spot! Instead, He doesn’t call on those resources which are right at His fingertips, but allows the arrest to happen.

So, just in the context of the arrest scene alone, we find no less than three instances where Jesus could have easily resisted arrest. First, He could have ordered His followers to draw their weapons and fight off the mob. Second, He could have used supernatural power to wipe out the mob. Third, He could have called thousands of angels to rescue Him and His followers from the mob.

Instead, He chooses not to interfere, or have his followers interfere, with the arrest. That’s because He knows the timing is right and His arrest will surely lead to the unfolding of the plan of the cross - the unfolding of the plan that was conceived before the creation of the world. He knows the time is at hand for this to happen - the arrest which will lead to His crucifixion, and ultimately, to Him offering Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Why?

So, the question is why? If Jesus could be crucified only if He allowed it to happen, why was He so compelled to carry it out? Why would Jesus willfully die on the cross for our sins? You see, because of our sins, each one of us is given a death penalty. “The wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23) If our sin earns us the death penalty, why would Jesus pay the penalty of death for us? What is the motivation? The answer?.... Love!

Jesus understood this when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) God Himself was motivated by love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

You see, “...because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Yes, Jesus was tortured to death on a cross. But only because He allowed it to happen!  And all because He loves you, and wants you to become one of His. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) 

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