At church, I have been one of the readers for the Sundays of Lent. Today, one of my lines to read was: “If we were in [Jesus’] place, knowing death awaited us soon, would we still reflect our light?”
I remember watching on television a video sermon that was delivered by Dr. Desmond Ford. Ford referred to thinkers who said that there were other famous historical figures who handled their impending deaths much more bravely than Jesus did. Was not Jesus afraid of death at the Garden of Gethsemane? And did not Jesus on the cross ask God why God had forsaken him?
Dr. Ford’s response was that Jesus was not just experiencing death; rather, he was experiencing the second death, the death for the wicked in Revelation 20:14. Other Christians would add that Jesus on the cross was bearing the weight of people’s sins, and that he was experiencing alienation from God.
That might be. It is interesting to me that Jesus was still suffering emotional anguish, when there are some Christians who might say that such anguish indicates a lack of faith, that we should be composed because of our trust in God. I am reading a book by George MacDonald, The Highlander’s Last Song, and one of that book’s protagonists is one who is not afraid of death, for he realizes that he is in the arms of God. The book seems to herald him as some sort of spiritual exemplar. But Jesus experienced emotional anguish. We may like to regard Jesus as perfect, but perhaps his perfection does not accord with our understanding of perfection.
Jesus still did let his light shine in his final hours, though. Jesus thought of others and honored God when he was arrested and when he was dying, according to the Gospels. He healed the ear of the high priest’s slave. With composure, he told Pilate that Pilate would have no power were it not for God. On the cross, Jesus received a criminal into his kingdom. He arranged for the disciple he loved to take care of his mother. He was vulnerable, yet he knew who he was and what his mission was.