Something occurred to me the other night that I had never thought of before. Jesus had a choice. He didn't have to go to the cross.
Why, after 18 years of following Christ, hadn't I realized that? Maybe it was my own blinding sense of "entitlement" as a spoiled, rich American. Although I am in truth needy, it is not my cries that command the One who can save me. As wonderful as it is, somehow it is hard to admit how much He loves me (us). One of my favorite teachers likes to point out, "God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." (Rom.2:4)
His kindness cost more than we know:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him--Heb. 5:7-9
This same teacher has also many times equated faith and obedience. "And without faith it is impossible to please God"--Heb. 11:6a Obedience is a demonstration of our faith. Jesus had a choice, and we have a choice:
"Faith requires the possibility of rejection, or it is not faith." --Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
We can have faith in God, and we can demonstrate that faith. But part of it is believing--"because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists"--Heb. 11:6b How thankful I am for the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”--Mark 9:24b Again, God shows His kindness in the words of this story. Jesus does help his unbelief--"he rewards those who earnestly seek him."--Heb. 11:6c Those 18 years ago I sought to settle the question. I could not rest until it was decided. Was Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) or not?
After wrestling with the question for quite a while, here is how I came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God: I thought about what the world would look like if I determined that He was not--if my perception of things would change. If, say, I would look at a tree and see it as any different. It was a pivotal moment for me. The thought of even a tree, without Jesus being Who He said He was, was horrific. Like all the color went out of it, and the world, and there was no hope. So, I believed. I decided that Jesus is the Son of God.
It was a good decision.