Author: Ron Graham
Was Jesus Free to Opt Out?
—Could he have escaped crucifixion?
Jesus was facing the hour of his death, and he prayed, 'Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me' (Matthew 26:36-44). Was it possible? Could Jesus have opted out of his suffering and death upon the cross?
This is really two questions, or two frameworks into which we might fit the general question.
1 Our Critical Questions
The first question is this: —Was it possible for Jesus to do God's will and yet escape the cross? The answer to that is NO. Otherwise God would have answered the Lord's request and let the cup of suffering pass from Jesus.
There is, however, a second question: —Was it possible for Jesus to go against God's will and escape the cross? The answer to that is YES. Look further down to Matthew 26:47-56. which says in part...
But Jesus said to [Peter], "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" Matthew 26:52-54 NKJV.
2 God's Guaranteed Plan
In order to fulfil the Scriptures, the betrayal and arrest of Jesus had taken place. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, tried to defend him with a sword (the same Peter, incidentally, who later denied him three times). Jesus stopped the violence and the resistance, because it was contrary to the will of God revealed in prophecy. Jesus was consciously and deliberately co-operating with the plan and purpose of God which the prophets had foretold.
We are left in no doubt. Jesus had a choice: —either go ahead and allow himself to be led to Calvary, or call down an army of more than 70,000 angels to rescue him.
When we place this fact beside what Peter (the one who had wielded the sword to save Jesus) later said, we come against sonething both wonderful and indisputable: Peter said that Jesus was "delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23).
God's predetermined plan was unchangeable. His plan was that Jesus should become "a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" and he wrote that purpose in prophecy even confirming it with an oath (Hebrews 6:13-20, Genesis 22:15-18, Psalm 110:4).
3 Christ's Unwavering Choice
Jesus was fully aware that if he called down the army of angels, the scriptures would not be fulfilled (Matt 26:53-54). That would mean God's promise and oath would fail and the Godhead would be divided! AND YET JESUS MADE IT CLEAR THAT HE COULD, AT THAT MOMENT, CALL DOWN THE ARMY OF ANGELS IF HE CHOSE TO.
It would be foolish for us to speculate on what God would have done if Jesus had chosen to call down the angelic army. But it is not foolish for us to recognise that he claimed to have that choice, which means that God's unchangeable purpose and foreknowledge in no way robbed Jesus of his own free will and choice.
This is a great mystery, but let us be thankful that the Son of God never gave thought to abandoning his Father’s plan and purpose. He only thought that maybe his Father could still accomplish his purpose without the need for his Son to drink of the coming suffering and shed his blood. But it wasn't possible, so he willingly went to the cross to save you and me.