Again, “We adore God who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him” (Pope Francis, 6/21/14).
If God is as revealed by Jesus’ Person, words and deeds, that is, a God of Nonviolent Love of all, friends and enemies, then what does Jesus mean when He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt 26:39;Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42)?
Since Jesus is sweating blood as He makes this prayer, it is reasonable to assume that He is in a state of severe trepidation because He “sees” something coming that appears to Him to be terrible. I would submit that this “seeing” has nothing to do with His omniscience as God and everything to do with the ordinary human capacity of a person to sense that he or she is being set up for something bad to happen to him or her in the future. Absolute metaphysical certainty is not at work here, just a high probability human calculation concerning the implications of what a person observes going on around him or her.
For example the city of Dallas, Texas, in 1963 was a cesspool of hate-filled politics. It had the highest homicide rate in the country. In April of that year Retired General Edwin Walker, an ultraconservative political agitator with a bottomless well of Texas money financing him was the subject of an attempted assassination in Dallas. Adlai Stevenson on the political left and John F. Kennedy’s Ambassador to the United Nations was attacked by a mob, prevented from giving a public speech, bloodied by a protester and had his car almost overturned by people rocking it in a display of self righteous hate of him and his ideas. So, it is not surprising that President John F. Kennedy said to his wife, Jacqueline, on their flight to Dallas on November 22, 1963, “ We’re heading into nut country today”
John F. Kennedy did not go to Dallas to be murdered. He had a goal in going there in light of his larger life’s commitment. Dallas was a step on road he thought he had to take in terms of his overall commitment to being re-elected President. Jesus also had an all encompassing life’s commitment which was to Proclaim the Kingdom God and the Way to enter that Kingdom by doing the Will of the Father “on earth as it is done in heaven”—and to reveal by His Person, words and deeds what the content of the Way and Will of the Father is. He went to city of Jerusalem, the religious center of the Jewish faith, in order to take a step on the road He thought He had to take in terms of His overall commitment to proclaim the Kingdom of God and thereby do the will of the Father. He did not go there to be murdered.
Jesus, like John F. Kennedy going to Dallas, knew that in going to Jerusalem He was “going into nut country,” a world where the religious elites had the power to whip religious people into a murderous frenzy. He also knew that the religious elites had it in for Him. “But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against Him to put Him to death” (Mt 12:14). “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodian against Him to put Him to death”(Mk 3:6). “So from that day on they (the Sanhedrin) plotted to take his life” (Jn 11: 53). Jesus did not need, any more than John F. Kennedy needed, divine omniscience to be aware that a trip to Jerusalem contained a serious probability that something terrible could happen to Him, that He could be killed. All He needed was human street smarts and He, like Kennedy, had plenty of those.
Neither the Father nor Jesus willed that Jesus be tortured and murdered to save human beings. Both willed only that Jesus love, as God loves. And, in obedience to the Will of the Father He did it in good times and in bad—no exceptions.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
(To be continued)