There are few things that make me angrier than people lying about Jesus, and one of the biggest lies is that Jesus lost his faith while on the cross.
I have argued here and here and elsewhere that Jesus, in all his time on Earth, was never closer to his Father than in the hours leading up to and during his crucifixion. He did not lose his faith. He did not feel forsaken. He played his Messianic role flawlessly, and in so doing, became the perfect sacrifice that paid the sin debt and paved the way for the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth. I have zero doubt about that.
Had Jesus not played his Messianic role flawlessly, he could not have served as the blemish-free offering that was required as the sin debt.
Jesus did not at any time lose his faith in God or in his role as Messiah. How could he lose faith in God? He knew him intimately, one-on-one, as his Dad. To Jesus, God wasn’t out there somewhere, maybe or maybe not hearing prayers, maybe or maybe not answering them, but inside him as an abiding presence, informing his every thought and word. There was no separation between God and Jesus, as Jesus himself said just a few hours before his crucifixion: “The Father and I are one”. Where Jesus was, there was God, through God’s Holy Spirit.
We have the same intimate relationship with God, if we’re genuinely born again.
Those of you who think that Jesus temporarily lost his faith on the cross, could you kindly point out in scripture where precisely he lost it? Because I see no evidence of lost or diminished faith. On the contrary, I see Jesus more focused than ever on what he knew he had to endure, and willing to endure it, knowing that the end was his glorification.
Why is Jesus’ unshakeable faith important to us as his followers? Because Jesus didn’t want to be crucified. He fought against it at the eleventh hour, begging God to find another way for him to accomplish the deed. But when God was adamant that there was no other way, Jesus accepted it and forged ahead, strengthened by God and by the angels God sent to minister to him.
We do not see a weakened Jesus exiting the Garden of Gethsemane. Oh, no – we see a spiritually and physically superhuman Jesus, embracing his betrayer and admonishing his followers for wounding the soldiers who’d come to arrest him. We see a Jesus fully in command of the situation and of himself. This same superhuman Jesus continued as such to his last breath, with no loss of faith. On the contrary, he must have astounded all those present when he continued to minister to those present – to the women who lined his path, to John and his mother, and to the thieves – despite the horrors he was enduring. When the Roman soldier stood at the foot of the cross in awe of Jesus, saying “Truly he was the son of God”, it wasn’t because he’d just witnessed a man losing his faith, but because he’d witnessed a man who against all odds remained true to himself to the end.
This continuance of Jesus’ faith in the face of extreme torture and humiliation is important for us to know, because we will face similar situations as his followers. That is a guarantee. And like Jesus, we may not want to do what God has planned for us and we may try to negotiate a way around it or to find a better (that is, less painful) way to carry out our mission. Chances are, again like Jesus, we’ll have to go through what we have to go through as planned. But knowing that Jesus was able to do it by submitting fully to God should serve as our guide.
I have come across many people in my travels who are angry and bitter at God because they blame him for letting a loved one die or for “not being there” when they were suffering an illness or a bankruptcy or any of the other thousands of crises we humans can go through during our time on Earth. They blame God for their trouble and pain, and in blaming him, close themselves off to him so that he can’t work through them anymore. That is a sad situation, and imagine if Jesus had done it. Imagine if Jesus had closed himself off to God because God wouldn’t find another way for him to accomplish what he had to accomplish. Imagine if Jesus had been bitter at God instead of submitting fully to him. Had Jesus been bitter, he would not have been able to do what he did during his crucifixion, he would not have gained victory over death, as God would not have been able to work through his bitterness.
Without unshakeable faith, Jesus would not have been able to pay the sin price required of him as the Messiah. He didn’t blame God for what he was going through. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t get bitter. He didn’t shut God out. He just put his shoulder to the wheel and let God work through him.
He let God be God.
We must never shut God out, no matter what we’re going through. Some of what we’re facing may be a test, and some of it may be punishment we’ve brought on ourselves. Either way, we must never close ourselves off to God. He must remain our centre and our focus and the source of our strength, as he was for Jesus. No matter how bad things get or how miserable a circumstance you find yourself in, I’m guessing it still won’t rival the pain and suffering Jesus endured at his crucifixion. If he could remain faithful through that trial by submitting fully to God and strengthening as a result, then so can you.
So can we all.
Untested faith is mere boasting. Faith that strengthens under trial is the true measure of faith. In that, as in everything else, let Jesus be your guide.