A thought while sitting in church last week

Friday, April 3, 2015

I imagine Jesus was probably afraid in the few days leading up to his crucifixion.

We are at the end of what is known as Holy Week, the period of time in the Christian calendar that focuses on the "final week" of Jesus' life. Yesterday we remembered the crucifixion. Perhaps we went to church or Mass; maybe we fasted. Whatever we chose to do, the point is that we remember. We talk about the Sacrifice, and we look ahead three days to celebrate the resurrection on Sunday morning.

But we forget about the fear.

Jesus must have been afraid. He was in his early 30s ― a decent age for someone at that time ― and he had a good life. He had friends, he had a loving family. As far as we know, he was healthy. He had no chronic ailments or conditions.

He had all of this going for him, and he knew he was going to die, and he knew it was going to be painful and horrific.

If we take a step back from the story, we have to notice that Jesus didn't really get a say in any of it. John 3:16 says that God loved the world so much that "he gave his one and only son." Nowhere in there does it say the son volunteered for the job. Actually, you can make a case for the opposite. In Matthew's account of Gethsemane, Jesus asks God if there is another way.

"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me," he said. He is afraid.

I think we often forget ― or overlook ― the fear Jesus endured in this week because fear is a human emotion.

When we talk about Jesus, we talk about him as perfect. He is part of the Trinity, right between the Father and the Spirit. He is the Son of God. He is fully divine.

But he is also fully human. He had flesh and bones and blood. He also had emotions ― joy, pain, anger and fear.

I think we overlook the human side sometimes because to think of him as human is to think of him as like us. And we're not always that great to be around. We can be selfish. We can be intolerant of others who aren't like us. We can be vain and often, we can be just plain mean.

We are often afraid. And we see this fear as a weakness. And we don't want to see Jesus as weak.

Jesus wasn't weak. But he was afraid. Truthfully speaking, God didn't need to sacrifice his son to save the world. Jesus didn't need to exist for God to redeem the world. The reason that Jesus exists is because God made him exist. Because Jesus allows us to comprehend God's empathy.

Jesus exists, and Jesus died, so that when he tells us to "fear not," we know that he understands how difficult, and how important, it is to trust in ourselves ― in our own mental, emotional and physical strength ― and in him.

Fear not a world without him. Because a world without him will never exist anymore.