Something I’ve thought of before is that whenever we see Jesus do something in the Gospels, we know without doubt that he did not sin in doing it. We know that he was tempted in every way like us, yet without sin. Reading the Gospel accounts through this lens can be helpful. (I’m not saying to only read the Gospels this way, so please don’t misunderstand me).
Earlier, when I was reading the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14, I thought through a portion of the passage in this way:
14:35-36: “And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for you; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.'”
Now, these verses contain much more than I could even begin to expound. But what struck me this morning was this: Jesus did not want to bear the cross. He prayed three times that the cup might pass — that he would not have to endure Calvary’s tree. When sent the Son, the Father purposed the reconciliation of the world to himself — through the Cross. And, the night before the hinge of history, when God would conquer sin and death, when the eternal plan would be accomplished, only hours before the bottom of the cosmic ninth inning, the sent Son pleaded with the Father to let the hour pass.
“Can you put me on the bench tonight, Dad?”
We know, beyond question, that Jesus never sinned, that he lived his life in perfect righteousness. But if we didn’t know, what would we think of this prayer, this, may I call it terror? Would we condemn the Son as one of little faith, as one who did not trust his own co-divine Father’s plan?
We just might.
Maybe, in another case, another man would have been sinning here, but not the God-man, Jesus. He could endure such a thing, and maintain perfect righteousness. Because (I’m going to use a little more hyperbole) the perfect Son wanted to avoid that hour more than anything else in the universe (except for one thing). Jesus’ desire was to pour out that cup, to not consume its bitter drink, and above this he desired nothing more (except for one thing). His own will was to avoid the cross, to find another way, to implore his sovereign and omnipotent Father to find another way.
One thing superceded Jesus’ will — his desire to submit to the will of his Father. So that he might pray with pained and scared and totally trusting words, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
“I don’t want this! But more than that, I want what you want. And if you want this, I’ll do it!”
It wasn’t sin, for Jesus to want to avoid the Cross. It wasn’t sin, because he trusted his Father, submitting to the will of the one who sent him. In total trust and faith, in perfect obedience. And so he died a perfect sacrifice.
Without the triumph of this moment, without Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s awful and merciful and glorious plan, all would be lost. I would be damned for the pride in my heart, flowing out into and through my keyboard and screen. I would be damned because I’m a wretched man.
But, instead, I’m humbled and I’m saved.
Thanks be to the Father who willed, and to the Son who obeyed, and to the Spirit who was there at the will of the Father, empowering obedience in those moments of darkness, of grieving-toward-death. All working as one, because God is one, blessed forever.