He brought Peter, James and John with him, and became sad and troubled. He told them, “My spirit is deeply saddened to the point of death – stay here and keep watch.” (Mark 14:33-34)
Why did Jesus become so sad?In order to understand why Jesus was so saddened, one must be aware of the context of the situation.
Jesus knew he was going to be arrested any minute. He was, in fact, awaiting his arrest. Jesus knew that Judas was going to have him arrested:
“Truly I tell you that one of you will have me arrested ..." (Mark 14:17-21)Then Jesus told Judas to go out and report to the high priests where Jesus was going to be:
“What you shall do, do quickly.” (John 13:27)Jesus then went to the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives and had Peter, James and John wait while he prayed privately. Jesus expressed his sadness as he spoke to his close disciples.
Jesus' sadness is directly related to his struggle with his coming arrest and persecution. He was considering the incredible physical pain and suffering he would undergo at the hands of the Romans, and the Chief Priest Caiaphus and his council. He was also considering the monstrous efforts of these offensive people to try to silence his teachings.
Yet Jesus could have immediately left that place and avoided being arrested. He could have hidden himself. Or he could have simply left Jerusalem altogether, into the night.
In fact, Jesus had done this multiple times already. He had withdrawn into the mountains when he understood the authorities were trying to arrest him:
Now Jesus, perceiving they intended to seize upon him and claim him as their leader, withdrew again to the mountain alone. (John 6:15)
Jesus was very smart. He knew when the authorities were about to seize him. He might have withdrew from the situation to avoid arrest other times. But not this time.
Certainly Jesus didn't want to be persecuted. He didn't want to undergo the pain and suffering. But he also didn't want to witness the evil that would arise from these officials due to their envy and fanaticism.
But he also knew that this was an unavoidable part of the service he was giving to the Supreme Being. It was part and parcel of his mission to spread the message of love and loving service to the Supreme Being during these fanatical times.
Yes, Jesus understood this was part of the service, and he was struggling with whether to go through with it on a personal basis.
Confirmed by Jesus' prayerThis struggle Jesus was having is confirmed by the next verse:
He went a little further and fell to the ground and started to pray, asking if it were possible that this moment for him might be averted. (Mark 14:35)
This "moment" is his coming arrest and persecution. Jesus is asking God if it might be possible for him to avert the situation. Jesus is struggling with this. Certainly it would be easier to avoid his coming persecution. But he understands this has become a necessity to achieve his mission of delivering his teachings from God.
This point is also confirmed by the prayer Jesus made to the Supreme Being:
“Abba – LORD, everything is possible for You – please let this cup be taken from me – yet not what pleases me but what pleases You.” (Mark 14:36)
Does this mean that God wanted Jesus to be crucified?Certainly not. The Supreme Being doesn't want anyone to suffer. It is humans who make others suffer, and bring suffering upon ourselves as a consequence. It is our self-centered attachments to the physical body and the things of this material world that bring suffering upon others, and ourselves.
You see, each of us has the freedom to make choices. We are the ones who wanted to be free from the dominion of the Supreme Being. So God simply set up a virtual reality where we can take on temporary physical bodies and pretend that we are independent from God.
The problem is, freedom of choice must also be accompanied by the consequences of choice. It is not that one can have the freedom to make choices but not have to suffer the consequences of those choices. Not having consequences would negate the very freedom of choice.
For example, let's say that a son wants to join the Army and go to war. The parents might not want him to do that, but they recognize that he has the choice to do this with his life. But along with that freedom of choice to join the Army and go to war is the potential consequence that comes along with that choice: That the son might be killed in combat. The parents cannot remove this possible consequence and still grant their son the freedom of making that choice. The consequence automatically goes with the choice.
In the same way, if we want to act independently of God and make self-centered choices, then automatically we must face the possible consequences of those choices. We can't have one without the other.
So the freedom of choice that God granted us must come with the consequences of the choices that we make.
In the case of Jesus, those who chose to persecute him because he threatened their authority did so because they were given the freedom of choice. They were given the choice to make decisions that caused Jesus' physical suffering.
In other words, God did not have Jesus crucified. Those people involved - the High Priest and his men, the Roman authorities and the people who supported them - did this. They made the choice to crucify Jesus. They were given the freedom and for whatever reasons, they made their choices.
Love also requires freedomFreedom of choice is also a necessary requirement for love. If God wants us to love Him, He must also give us the choice not to love Him. This means He must also give us the choice to accept His representative or reject His representative.
If God did not give us the choice to reject His representative, then accepting His representative Jesus would be meaningless. It also would negate the primary element necessary to love - the freedom to love or not.
So why did Jesus decide to accept persecution?If we accept the understanding that the Supreme Being did not arrange for Jesus to be crucified, then why did Jesus go through with it? Why didn't he evade capture? Why did Jesus feel that going through with it was pleasing to the Supreme Being?
The issue here is that Jesus understood the consequences of his being persecuted, and the consequences of avoiding it.
Jesus had already avoided being arrested and persecuted more than once. But Jesus knew that this would not last. Jesus had some choices to make. Jesus had to curtail his teachings or leave Judea - or face the consequences. If he stayed in Judea and continued his preaching mission then he was on a collision course with the authority of the High Priest and the Romans.
Continuing his preaching on behalf of the Supreme Being was Jesus' mission. He did not want to become part of the Temple system and succumb to the hypocrisy of the high priests and their authoriarian rule over the people. So he refused to water down his teachings. He didn't want to compromise his teachings.
So Jesus decided to stand up for his teachings and face the consequences. That choice was Jesus' choice. But his choice was to serve the Supreme Being by teaching love for God regardless of the dangers.
That is pleasing to the Supreme Being. Because it was based upon Jesus' love for God. Jesus' commitment to God. Jesus' dedication to God. Jesus was committed and dedicated to the Supreme Being, regardless of the price.
The ultimate sacrificeJesus was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to deliver his message of love for God to as many people as possible. Sometimes, when someone is backed into a corner, they have very few choices. They are forced to make some hard choices, and this situation was the case when Jesus decided that making the ultimate sacrifice was the best way to please God.
Jesus' sacrifice wasn't made so that people through the ages would proclaim that just accepting that Jesus died for my sins that I am saved. It wasn't made so that people could wipe their sins off on Jesus like he was some sort of doormat, and then go back to their sinning ways.
No. Jesus' ultimate sacrifice was made so that others would treasure the message that he was delivering: To love the Supreme Being and love others.
Delivering this message was worth the suffering he was about to undergo. It showed us just how important his teachings are.
In other words, Jesus' teachings were that important. Jesus' teachings were so important that he was willing to die for those teachings.
Yes, it was specifically because of his teachings that Jesus was crucified. It wasn't because he walked through the desert or baptized people, or because he healed people. It was because of his teachings. His teachings were so powerful that they bothered those within the Temple authority system. His teachings threatened their authority because his teachings were the Truth. Jesus' teachings resonated with people, and the authorites' positions were threatened by those teachings.
So it was because of Jesus' teachings that he was crucified. And because Jesus didn't back down from those teachings, he was persecuted. In other words, Jesus' physical body was murdered for his teachings.
Jesus' teachings do have the ability to save us. So Jesus did undergo persecution in order to save us. But what saves us is the acceptance and the following of his teachings - not some empty ritual about saying that Jesus died for my sins.
Jesus most important teachings were clear:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction. And the second is like it – ‘You shall love others as yourself.’ There is no other instruction greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)