What Backup Plan?

As I worked on the previous post, two separate messages were emerging; so, before you read this post, I encourage you to read The Plan, to get the bigger picture.

Summarizing what transpired in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified:  Our Jesus agonized through unimaginable struggle as He faced the coming day.  He prayed not once, but three times, that if there were any other way, Father would take the responsibility from Him.  Though He thought He had settled it the first two times, saying, “Yet, not as I will, but as You will,”1 the doubts returned.  That’s why He said, “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”2 After the third time, and being in such agony as to sweat drops of blood3, He broke through the barrier, choosing to carry on in the path Father had set out for Him since before the foundation of the world.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Jesus had chosen not to continue?   He knew He was the plan – the only way – for people to be reconciled to our Father4.  Surely, you might ask, there is no way He would have done anything else, is there?  Jesus could have chosen not to go through with it.  Even if He had backed out, wouldn’t God have come up with another plan?  God could have made another plan, but He wouldn’t have.  As amazing as it sounds, God had no backup plan.  Remember that Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but by Me.”4 That was the plan of redemption for all mankind – the only plan – and it was His perfect plan.

Our religious minds say Jesus wouldn’t have done anything but follow through to the end, simply because He was God.  Think about what Paul said in Philippians 2:6-8:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

Jesus was made in human likeness – not just with skin and bones, but with a soul (mind, will, and emotions).  That means He had a free will, just like us.  He had to draw upon the power of Holy Spirit – the same One Who lives in us – to choose to become obedient to death.  That’s how He defeated the temptation to turn away from the torture of spirit, soul, and body He faced.  He did it as a human with free will, like us, so that He could be the perfect, sinless, eternal sacrifice for our sins.

Hebrews 4:15 NIV  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.

The amazing revelation to me in all this is that God – Almighty, Creator, Omnipotent One – really did take a chance with this single plan He made.  It is almost unbelievable to say this, but He put all His eggs in one basket by letting Jesus have a free will – one that could have willed other than Father’s plan of redemption.  Daddy loved us so much that He made the plan to keep us from being forever separated from Him5; yet, within the intricacies of that plan, there was the possibility of something going wrong – with no backup plan, no “in case”.  It was absolutely required that Jesus have a free will so He would have no advantage over us in being able to resist temptation – yet would show us the way to live and be the way to eternal life because of how He used His free will – to do the will of Father.

Daddy knew, before creation, that Jesus had everything He needed to overcome the final temptation in the garden that night – the Word and the Spirit.  As much as He loved us, He left our final outcome to the free will of the Son of Man.  Daddy entrusted Jesus with our very lives, and trusted Holy Spirit to lead and guide Him along the path of life as man.  In dying, Jesus chose life for us.  In returning to our Father, He gave His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in Daddy’s path for us.  God had no backup plan, but His love and wisdom prevailed!  Glory to God forever!

Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

1 Matthew 26:42

2 Matthew 26:41

3 Luke 22:44

4 John 14:6

5 John 3:16

The Plan

Matthew 26:36-44 NIV 36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  . . .  38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  39 . . . he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping . . . 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

How do you usually read this passage?  Most likely, it takes only a few moments to read.  But let’s think about the actual passage of time involved – somewhere around an hour.  Do we really understand that during this time Jesus, having come to earth to live as a man, actually had to choose His course of action?  Even though He knew the Father’s path for Him, He really could have decided not to become sin nor go through the physical torture of crucifixion for us.

Jesus didn’t struggle in prayer just to fulfill prophecy.  He didn’t go back and repeat “Not My will, but Yours,” three times to give us a pattern of prayer.  When He told the disciples the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, He was letting them know the intense personal battle He waged as He asked again for their help in prayer.  Jesus’ flesh was not yielding easily in those long minutes, though His Spirit wanted to complete what He had come for.  Only after Jesus committed His will to Father’s will the third time was it completely settled in His heart.

Though He had more to do before the whole plan was totally fulfilled, the flesh was forever defeated in those last moments, and there would be no more wavering.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father, and in that last, most intense and agonizing temptation, He chose to finish His course.  He went forth from that place in victory, ready to endure the cross and all that led to it – for us.  Glory to God!