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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Did God abandon Jesus? (Conclusion, Part I)

At the end of the previous post, we looked at the following Scripture:

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7 and 8)

This leads to a couple of important questions. First, if Jesus was God, and God knows everything, why did Jesus have to learn obedience? That makes him sound like any other kid on the block, doesn’t it?

Yes, it does, and that’s the point exactly! Jesus was born of a woman, just like the rest of us. Jesus went through the usual childhood growth and development stages…a time when children are learning all sorts of things.

We can see verification of his human developmental needs in a passage from Isaiah, the prophet who first mentioned the birth of the Baby Jesus and his childhood development/learning:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right... ” (Isaiah 7:14-16)

Okay, so Jesus was like us as a kid, needing to learn to obey. Indeed, it is a mystery that there can be, contained in the very same human form, a Person Who is both totally man and totally God, but that’s what the Bible tells us. It was the totally human part of Jesus that had to make choices for right, to reject what was wrong. It is this uniqueness of God’s earthly form that made Jesus the perfect bridge between us and the Father, Who cannot look upon sin. (But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here; let’s return to the issue of the questions.)

The second question that pops up when reading the above passage from Hebrews Chapter 5 is this: How can you believe that God always heard the prayers of Jesus, Sojourner? I mean, the verse says that Jesus asked to be saved from death, but Jesus did die at a young age. Not only that, but He died a humiliatingly painful death on the cross. How can you say God always answered the prayers of Jesus?

Okay, let’s see what it says in Hebrews 5 again: he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

The previous post suggested that the suffering of Jesus was a lifetime thing, not just during Passion Week, as many contend. Sometimes as young people, we feel that the pressures and taunts of peers can hurt so much that we just want to lie down and die, right? I believe that Jesus also suffered this kind of pain from peers and others, all of his life. Maybe Jesus did like the rest of us, too, then? Maybe Jesus begged the father to save Him from the suffering of it all, deliver Him from that inner turmoil? We don’t see that in Scripture at all; it’s just my own ponderings as I consider the human side of Jesus, especially as he was growing up.

Isaiah 53 speaks to us of the life Jesus would experience on this earth, in order that His specific mission be completed.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:3-4)

Many decided Jesus deserved what happened to Him. After all, even though he was a carpenter’s son, Jesus was really challenging the learned Jewish leaders, not just the people. He was a major sinner in the eyes of the Pharisees and God had punished Him. Interestingly, the learned Pharisees did know what the Prophet Isaiah had said about the Man Jesus. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him…” (Isaiah 53:5)

But, they didn’t get it. And, until the Holy Spirit draws us to Him, we don’t get it either. Jesus was innocent, we were the guilty and should have suffered, not Him.

You might think that God let Jesus down because God could have called down angels to destroy the kids and adults who taunted his Son; God could have done that, so why didn’t He spare Jesus that suffering? Remember it was through the suffering Jesus learned obedience? The same is true for us today. Suffering can be a tool to learn more about the grace of God, and experience His Presence more fully. We so often draw near to God when times are tough, don’t we?

As the Heavenly Father did for Jesus during His earthly life, God will also strengthen us for times of trial, giving us His grace to walk through it with Him. If God doesn’t relieve the pain—or prevent it—He has a reason.

Truly, God is a loving Father; One Who suffers with us, when it is necessary for Him to strengthen us through it, rather than to just remove it. He will always do what is best for us, and to see that we successfully complete our mission.

But, it wasn’t just the miseries of rejection and misunderstanding that the human side of Jesus might have asked God to deliver Him from on the worst of such occasions during His life here on earth. There were times when his physical life was threatened, too. God did deliver Jesus from those times when He could have died at the hands of the people before He finished the mission.
Let’s review a couple of instances that show us the life of Jesus was saved from death, likely in response to His prayers, though such a specific verse hasn’t been recorded with the actual event.

In Luke Chapter Four, we read an account of something that happened at the start of His ministry on earth. Jesus had gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath and read a passage from Isaiah. In fact, it was one of the passages recorded that foretold of His coming and ministry. He closed the scroll and told the people that that very day was the fulfillment of that passage of Scripture.

Jesus expounded on why the miracles done elsewhere were not being done right there in Nazareth, his hometown, using examples of why several Old Testament accounts saw God’s miracles being done for those who were not from the Jewish people.

While what Jesus said was true and could be verified from their records, the truth hit a bit too close to home, greatly insulting the people. How dare this carpenter’s son talk like that! They tried to kill him.

“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:28-30)

We don’t read of the prayer of Jesus for Father God to save Him as he is being pushed out of town by a mob who wants to throw him off a cliff; but because Jesus was human, we can assume that He was doing exactly what any of us would have been doing at such a time. Something like, “Help me, God! I really need a hand down here right now!” Or, maybe Jesus reminded the Father of the event in the Old Testament where God had temporarily blinded the eyes of the enemy?

In any case, whatever it was that Jesus prayed, God answered and saved Jesus from the mob. I mean, He just turned around and walked out through the crowd! How else but answered prayer could the Man Jesus have been able to do that?

Later on, when Jesus had gone to Lazarus, dead already four days in his tomb, and called his friend back to life, the Jewish leaders were determined to kill Jesus and Lazarus, as soon as they showed up for the Passover celebration. Hearing the two were at Lazarus’s home, they didn’t wait for them in Jerusalem any longer.

“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.” (Luke 12:9-11)

Well, we know that Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, with the people cheering and treating him like a king, so the leaders didn’t kill Jesus on that occasion at the home of Lazarus either. Jesus knew that His time was near to fulfill the mission, but He also knew that the time was not then. Perhaps, Jesus prayed for God to confuse the leaders who were on their way to Him, or that God would drop a great fear on them so that they were afraid of the crowd if they touched Jesus? I have no idea, what I do know is that they wanted, desperately, to kill Jesus and Lazarus, but didn’t do it. Why? Because it wasn’t time yet.

Where was God when Jesus was suffering during Passion Week? Why didn’t God prevent that torture His own Son had to endure, if God loved Him so much? How can I trust God to help me, when it doesn’t seem like He was there for His own Son? To me, Sojourner, it looks like God abandoned Jesus.

The next post will shed some light on those very questions. Read the Conclusion, Part II and let me know what you think: Did God really abandon Jesus when He needed His Heavenly Father the most?

****Did God Abandon Jesus? (Conclusion, Part II)…Next Post

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