Devotional link: www.tinyurl.com/MBCLAPW
Jesus set His face for Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, he would face rejection, mocking, and ridicule. He would be humiliated and be intimate with physical pain and suffering. He would be beaten and battered. He would wear a crown of thorns twisted into a mock crown, and His brow would bleed as the thorns pierced deeply into his forehead. He would know searing pain as lashes, struck with a leather cord embedded with bone and shards of pottery to inflict maximum levels of pain, tore into His flesh. He would know abandonment and loneliness as His closest friends and followers dispersed out of fear and disappointment. Yet, this was all done freely. He would suffer voluntarily.
John 18 records an incredible scene to demonstrate that Jesus was not forced to suffer, but rather, He did so willingly. He was not compelled nor a victim of circumstance. In this scene, prior to his eventual trial, suffering, and crucifixion, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Judas leads soldiers to arrest Him. John records, “Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He *said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” The soldiers fall on the ground and are helpless. Jesus is in control. Jesus could have escaped the pain. Instead, He freely suffered on our behalf.
As I think about His suffering, I remember an account of faithful servants of God that started a Christian organization to strengthen families. They outlined years of sacrifice and difficulties, and then concluded in a moment of complete vulnerability that if God had allowed them to know beforehand the amount of sacrifice and pain they would have to endure, they would not have begun the venture. Throughout their ministry, God sustained them, and His grace was sufficient. Yet, if the knowledge of all that would take place was known beforehand, if they had foreknowledge of their future circumstances, this fear would have crippled them from being faithful. This is what makes the account of Jesus’ suffering even more amazing to me. Jesus knew to the minutest details of all the suffering, ridicule, and pain He would endure. He knew that the disciples would desert Him. He understood He would bear the guilt of mankind and endure the terrible wrath of the Heavenly Father. And yet, Jesus set His face for Jerusalem. What an amazing love!