He might have kept his silence. He could have stayed at Nazareth, or remained among the crowds in Galilee. He could have continued to avoid the domains of Herod and of Pilate, and omitted contentious acts like the ride into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple…
He might have done so had he been a very different kind of Jesus: He might have saved himself – but he would not then have been the Savior.
He would not accept deliverance, because the price of deliverance was too high. Had he saved himself, we would be lost. -- Reginald E.O. White (adapted)
I remember when I was watching a movie about the death of Jesus how conflicted I felt. I had seen this sort of story before, of course; in many ways the events that led to the death of Jesus were a standard Hollywood storyline: The good guy is falsely accused and condemned to die in a sham trial.
Then (in the Hollywood version, at least) the dramatic rescue, which would usually take one of two forms: 1) Someone stands up to defend the good guy and persuades the group that their verdict is unjust, and he is restored to honor. Or 2) the good guy’s friends stage a dramatic and improbable rescue and deliver him from the evil clutches of his enemies.
Only this time it is different. As I watched that movie, I remember feeling my emotions bend toward that Hollywood happy-ending, half expecting Jesus to somehow be delivered. But then the other side of my brain kicked in and I remembered that there was no happy ending. The one lone voice raised in Jesus’s defense was shouted down. His disciples didn’t stage a dramatic rescue.
Jesus had to die.
It was vital, for my sake, for the sake of everyone I love, that Jesus die that day.
The death of Jesus was the final destruction of a dream, of many dreams: the dream of Messianic deliverance from the brutal rule of Rome, the dream of the continued presence and charisma of a mighty prophet, the dream of the ongoing ministry of a healer and teacher who cared for outsiders.
But his death was also, as we can see now, two millennia later, the birth of a new Dream, a Dream that was inconceivable to those hopeless mourners in those first few bitter hours, those first two days.
Without the death of Jesus those old dreams, which had to die, couldn't be laid to rest. So he gave himself up to the brutality and treachery of his enemies. All hopes had to die – hopes of rescue, hopes of justice, hopes of divine intervention – in order for God's Plan to be set in motion.
Once Jesus was well and truly dead, once all those old dreams and hopes were abandoned, God's people were ready consider God's Better and Bigger Plan -- Jesus not just alive but resurrected to a new kind of bodily life. Jesus at work not just in first-century Palestine but God's Spirit at work throughout history and all over the world. A people of God made up of not just of Jews but a people "from every tribe and every language" – all of this inconceivable so long as the Rabbi was kept from the hands of his enemies, so long as he was treated justly and humanely.
Prayer: Thank you, dear Jesus, for submitting the will of your Father, for giving up your life, for allowing evil men to break your body and spill your blood, for enduring the shame, abandonment, and rejection that rightly should be mine. I can never repay you for your amazing and kindly grace.