We have a tough time persevering and trusting God when we are suffering, especially because we feel like we don’t know what’s going on (and, from our limited vantage point, we don’t know and can’t know all that is going on!). It dawned on me, as I was reading about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to God to “take this cup” from Him, that Jesus is omniscient (or all-knowing) just as God is. Which means that He knew exactly what was coming in the crucifixion, and exactly how horrible and humiliating and painful it would be. How terrifying would that be?! The Bible said that as He was praying, Jesus was “in anguish, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44) — even while He was praying that not His will, but God’s would be done. Surely Jesus was aware of God’s will in this situation. Surely Jesus knows all that God knows and so was aware of each and every agonizing moment that was to come — and the redemptive purpose behind all of it.
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46, NIV).
Jesus spoke with the disciples repeatedly about His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, and 20:18-19, Mark 8:31, 9:31-32, and 10:33-34, and Luke 9:22 are some examples). In Luke, He describes in vivid detail what lay ahead for Him: “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:31-34, NIV).
Jesus knows God’s heart better than anyone, knows His purposes and intentions, knows what the results will be — because His heart is God’s heart and God’s heart is His:
“The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-30, NIV, emphasis added).
Jesus was facing more suffering, humiliation, and agony than any of us will ever face (including God turning His face from Him!) yet walked right into that suffering because He knew God’s purpose and what the result of His suffering would be. He knew what His suffering was for. He knew what it would look like and feel like (again, omniscient). He knew on top of all of that how He would be betrayed by those who He had spent just about every second of the last three years with. Yet He walked right into it, even though it is clear from the fact that He was sweating blood that He was terrified beyond imagination. (That would actually be an advantage to not being omniscient. How many of us would knowingly walk right into horrible suffering if we knew the scope and depth of the horribleness?) So the One person who had all the answers about His suffering that we seek about our own suffering — What will it be like? What will be the extent of it? How long will it last? Why do I personally have to be the one who is suffering? What’s it for? WHY??? — walked right into it. He knows God completely and intimately – His purposes, His will, and everything else about Him – and still walked right into horrific suffering, trusting God completely. And He did it out of unfathomable love for us. How’s that for compelling love?