Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross.
For some of you this may not be new news but to me, it’s both fresh and profound and exactly what my soul needed to hear. It's true. Jesus didn't have to go to the cross.
Let me explain… Jesus knew his coming death was the fulfillment of prophecy. When he went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, he asked God straight out—if there’s any way you can let this pass me by, please do so. And he was told flat out he would be betrayed by one close to him and that he would carry his own death piece, the cross, to the hill where he would hang.
Let’s be honest. Jesus wouldn’t have been the first son in the world not to do what his father asked. He wouldn’t have been the first person to disagree with authority and he wouldn’t have been the first person to experience a fear-based response and run from danger. He wouldn’t have been the first person to take the easy way out. He had a choice.
To my way of thinking, the garden was middle ground. When Jesus looked out over the city in one direction, he saw a land filled with people that would betray him and lead him to his death. But I what I didn’t know, what I learned just recently (I’ve been a Christian for over forty years mind you), is that if Jesus would have just turned around and looked the other way, he could have easily slipped into the Judean wilderness and disappeared. He could have walked away. Prophecy unfulfilled. Destined changed. History altered forever.
When the call comes and it’s not a favorable diagnosis, it would be easier to run. When the conversation starts with I don’t love you anymore, it would be easier to run. When there was nothing else we could do is all that’s left to be said, it would be easier to run. When we watch the people we love struggle and resist help, it would be easier to run.
Have you ever wanted to disappear? Have you ever thought about just chucking it all and running? I often joke that I’ve thought about running away far more as an adult than I ever did as a kid. I think most of us have felt that way. There are days it seems life is made up of a thousand flaming arrows headed straight toward our hearts. If we responded how we wanted on those days, the freeways would become a parking lot as we each tried to flee to anywhere. But. Here. Yet for the overwhelming majority of us, we don’t run. Why don’t more of us run?
In my opinion today marks one of the most crucial moments in Holy week. It was tonight, Thursday night, when Jesus sat down with his disciples and shared what would be their last meal together, Jesus’ last meal on earth. To set the scene, you’ve got men from all walks of life who’ve become best friends. While being called together for dinner probably wasn’t unusual, as Jesus begins to explain what’s going to happen and what he expects from those that choose to follow him in the days to come, it’s obvious this meal is like no other the group has ever attended. In today’s terms the last supper is much like the final meeting before the team is dismissed and the real work starts. The events that will unfurl over the next few hours will blow apart this close-knit group and life will become anything but ordinary. Some will doubt--I don’t believe what I’m hearing. Some will stand in dismay--why is He washing my feet? Some will deny--I never knew him. One will betray—it is he. To think it could have all been avoided if Jesus would have only turned around and headed less than an hour the other direction.
Jesus knew there were flaming arrows aimed directly for his heart. He knew his place in history was to obey his Father’s will and take the hit. If ever there was a one-for-all moment, surely it was when Jesus decided not to turn and go the other way.
We’re all going to face days when the arrows come and we find ourselves asking exactly the same thing Jesus did--if there’s any way this can pass me by, please let it do so. Doubt is going to creep in. Dismay is going to come. Denial is going to settle deep and betrayal may befall us.
Tonight when we set down to dinner and talk our way through the events surrounding the last supper, I’ll use words like integrity, loyalty, responsibility, honesty, hope, faith, and love to tell my son a few of the reasons I don’t run, even when it would sometimes be the easiest thing to do. I’ll plant these seeds deep in his heart and pray when the arrows come his way he'll follow the ultimate example, that of Jesus, and decide to stay instead of running.