What, apparently, God can and cannot do
April 18, 2019
The scene: the garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus has left most of His disciples further behind Him, and has left Peter, James, and John a little bit behind Him, and He has fallen to the ground in prayer. There He prays, “Daddy– Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36)
All things are possible for you. You can do anything. That being said, take this cup away from me.
Plain and simply put, Jesus had no desire whatsoever to go through what was coming next. The road He was on, the ‘cup’ that He would drink, was one that involved jeering accusations, being spat on, brutally beaten, and horribly killed, by degrees. While we might soften what He was saying a bit, by noting that He does further say ‘nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will’ in His next breath– don’t miss His urgency and resolve in what He prayed. It wasn’t worded as a request; it was an imperative. It was as definite as (in previous verses) when Jesus told His disciples to wait for Him. There was no ‘if you wouldn’t mind’ implied in the language He used.
He did NOT want to go through the cross, at that particular moment. Not that this moment held, or controlled the day, but the ugliness of what was coming was a terrible shadow looming up on Him. In the midst of all of the physical suffering that would come, all of our sins would be laid on Him, and He would die for them.
He. Knew. No. Sin.
As God, He detested sin. He loved sinners; He greeted them, and called them to be free from sin– because this was who He was, and what He was about. Sin, to Him, was toxic, deadly– the enemy. The intruder between Himself, in His holiness, and the people He had made and loved.
In the midst of all of this, I see quite a lot about my sin, and what it truly is (ugly beyond comprehension) — and I also see quite a lot about my God, who loves me– truly, and desperately.
Enough to do that which He had no desire to do– to endure that which He had no desire to endure.
I am, for the most part, rather cowardly and wimpy. Ask me about my personal feelings before going in for anything medical involving needles (even tiny ones) and you’ll hear that, all things being equal, I’d rather not. I have to play mental games when they draw blood.
I have no comprehension of willingly undergoing what Jesus did– and even less ability to do so, when I think that He didn’t ‘have’ to go through it for His own sake or survival–
He’d have been just fine, without the cross. He’d have lived forever without it. Probably could have taken up all sorts of hobbies, with that time. He could have done immeasurable numbers of great achievements. A lot of us would have been happy with that, or, at least, would seem happy with the thought of it.
To Him, they would have rung hollow, and empty. Why? Because what He most wanted was to save those who were perishing in sin– you, me, and anyone else He possibly could. What good are monuments and achievements, without those you’d love to share them with? What good is eternity, for that matter?
Scene: Jesus dying, nailed to a cross.
Robbers are on either side of Him. People are passing by, insulting Him.
The chief priests and teachers of the law are mocking Him: “He saved others, but he can’t save Himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”
All things were possible for God. There is nothing He can’t do. Interestingly, the same word for being able to do something– when Jesus prayed in the garden to the Father, about how all things are possible for Him, and when those mocking Him said ‘he can’t save himself’ — both instances of talking about can and can’t are the same word.
A lot of people have wasted a lot of time talking about whether God can do some thing, and not some other thing; whether He can make a rock He can’t lift. This is, at the end of the day, intellectual nonsense, by people missing the point.
The one thing Jesus couldn’t do was leave you and me to die, without doing something– doing everything, in fact– to try and save us. And so He went to the cross– unhappy about the experience, but hopeful for you, and me, and the forgiveness and new life that He could bring us.
There’s the good in Good Friday– the ultimate good for you and me.
Sit up, for a while, and think about that great love, and all that He endured, for your sake, and mine.