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WHY JESUS HAD TO SUFFER AND DIE

Father Francis's picture
Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 9:19-24

One day when Jesus was alone with His Apostles He told them that He must suffer, experience rejection, and eventually be put to death. Jesus was such a wonderful Man, in love with life, His friends and His work. He had every reason to live. Why must He die?

God knows the future. He knew that Judas, who had free will, would betray Jesus, and would be the instrument of setting in motion the events that would lead to His death. Can we say that God the Father planned Jesus’ death? If that is true it would suggest that Jesus was not a real flesh-and-blood Man living His life, but a Heaven-sent actor following a script. Can we really accept that? The Man we see on the pages of the four Gospels was real. He lived a real life; He grappled with real issues; and He died for a cause.

When Jesus spoke to His Apostles on that day He knew what the future held for Him. It was inevitable, not because God had decreed it, but because of the kind of Man He was and the kind of world in which He was living.

If Jesus had wanted He could have averted the Cross. He could have stayed away from Jerusalem, the place where He encountered His most bitter critics and determined opposition. Some of the leading citizens of Jerusalem hated this upstart Prophet and were plotting His death. But He did go to Jerusalem.

This did not mean that He had a death wish. It simply meant that some things were more important to Him than personal safety. One of these was His love for Jerusalem, the ancient Capital and spiritual centre of His people. He was not willing to walk away and turn it over to a group of petty minded men. He might have avoided the Cross had He been willing to stay away, but His deeper concerns would not allow Him to do that.

Another option would have been to soften His words and moderated His message. For example, He could have told a story about a Bad Samaritan with the priest or Levite as the one who rescued the unfortunate man. Or He could have continued healing, but not on the Sabbath.

But Jesus could not consider such compromises. He had a deep conviction about the sacredness of people and could not tolerate anyone being abused, even Samaritans. He believed that people were more sacred than the Sabbath.

He could even have rallied an army of men to fight His cause. The Jews were always ready to follow any leader who would help topple and oust the Romans from their land, but He would not fight back, even to save His own life. What then would have become of His lesson to turn the other cheek or be peacemakers? So the Cross was inevitable.

Let us not forget what Jesus also said about us, His followers, in today’s Gospel, “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me.”

Holy Spirit, help us to understand that if the Cross were a must for Jesus, then it has to be a must for us if we wish to be His followers. Inspire us to accept our crosses when we are confronted by them.

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