As I grow in my relationship with Christ, and as I grow towards what I know to be my destiny, I occassionally get these “lightning bursts” that to me feel more like electricity, but that Jeremiah once described as a fire burning in his bones that has to get out. They aer always unexpected, always amazing, and always something I have to either write about or talk about. I’m feeling the need to write this one though, so here goes:
Christ had to choose to live a sinless life. He had to choose the Cross. We have to choose to follow Him. NO ONE has the right to force us to decide one way or the other on that choice.
If you’re familiar with the Bible – or even if you’ve seen the movie The Passion – you may be familiar with the story of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus of Nazareth literally begged his Father to remove the burden of Golgotha from him – but chose to submit to his Father’s will regardless. This was a son BEGGING his dad not to order him to die, and a dad knowing that there was no other way to save EVERYONE than for his own son to die. In the entire Bible, it is the saddest, most poignant scene – and one of the scenes where the fate of the entire human race – past, present, and future – literally hung in the balance.
But Isaiah knew all about this. Indeed, Isaiah was told that Immanuel – “God with us” – would face a choice every day of his life to choose good or evil. According to Isaiah 7:15, “Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know evil and choose the good.” Christ had to experience evil so that he could truly experience the human condition, and he still had to make the choice to choose good.
We don’t know what Jesus of Nazareth experienced as a child or young adult. We can glean a few facts from history that he more than likely saw people he knew crucified by the Roman governtment occupying the land he lived in. Some of those may have been killed for doing things that were perfectly within their religious views, but outside Roman law. We know that he probably saw all manner of decadence and evil being supported by the Romans and maybe even some of his own people – after all, he grew up in what we would probably term as the “other side of the tracks” today. From the Bible, We know the story of his birth, but after that we are given only that his parents went to Jerusalem every year for passover, with one year – when he was 12 years old – having a bit of detail. That can be found in Luke 2:41-52. Essentially, while in Jerusalem that year, Jesus went and spoke to the adults in the local church who were absolutely astounded that such a young boy could know so much about the Torah. After that, we see in verse 52 that Jesus grew both in wisdom and in renown, and men began to trust him.
The next thing we know though, Jesus shows up at the river where his cousin, John the Baptist, is preaching and baptizing people in the name of the one who is to come. Jesus chooses to get baptized over the initial objections of the Baptist, and his Father rewards that choice by audibly calling out from Heaven “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
Next, Jesus faced a period of ourtight testing. For 40 days in the desert, he was tempted to choose evil just a single time over and over and over – and chose good every single time. He didn’t grow weary of the trial and finally give in just to get it over with. Had he done so, we would all be doomed to Hell right now, as would every single human throughout history.
We don’t know that Jesus of Nazareth knew that the fate of the world hung in the balance of every decision he made in regards to good and evil. That is a theological question that I suspect we won’t find out until we can ask him ourselves.
But we do know that those choices were his and his alone. We know that he was separated from every outside influence for a time, and during that time was tested repeatedly yet never failed. We know that ultimately, he faced Gethsemane and had to choose for himself whether to live for himself or to die for us.
Not even his Father – God, the Father, who literally holds power over every single thing in existence – could make that choice for him. Not even his Father dictated to him which way he should choose.
The choice was entirely his own.
Flash forward roughly 2,000 years or so, to our lives. We face the same choices between good and evil every day. In many places around the world, even in the US to a lesser extent, people literally have to make the choice to live for themselves or die for Christ even as I type this. God the Father, who still literally holds power over every single thing in existence – does not make that choice for us, his most precious creation. God the Father still does not dictate to us which way we should choose.
Why then do we humans try to dictate to each other which way we should choose?
Joshua, one of the first leaders of Israel, once said “Choose this day whom you wil serve”. He said it something like 4,000 years ago, and it remains the choice each of us have every single day.
Choose. This day. Whom. You will serve.