Unification News for July 1999
The Divine Principle
Volume 3 Part 8
We are told that just prior to the crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wept and prayed three times that the cup of suffering might pass from him -- that he be spared from death. (Mk. 14)
In view of Divine Principle, the reasons for Jesus' tears are several. For one, Jesus understood that through him God had wanted to fulfill the original ideal He had in creation. As one with a unique communion with God, we may imagine he knew clearly of the sorrow in God's heart over His broken creation. Jesus has sought to relieve that grief, but with his own rejection he realized that the Divine will was being frustrated again. God's sorrow would only intensify. Unable to succeed completely in his mission, Jesus must have felt sorrowful himself.
At the same time, Israel had undergone repeated trials and had suffered long in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. By rejecting him, Jesus recognized the likelihood that Israel would lose God's blessing and her long suffering would become meaningless. Deeply loving his people, Jesus may have sensed a bleak destiny facing them.
Jesus may also have foreseen that his followers would suffer as he had suffered. He was going the path of the crucifixion. Could their fate be any better? Furthermore, since the establishment of God's Kingdom was postponed, humanity's suffering in this Satanic world would also inevitably continue.
Filled with thoughts of these things, Jesus must have felt great pain and anguish. Certainly such feelings are suggested by the Gospel reports:
"And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful even to death; remain here, and watch with me.' And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, 'My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as though wilt.'" (Mt. 26:37-39)
Some paradoxes resolved
For a moment, let us look at this Gethsemane scene from the other side of the argument. If we thing that the crucifixion was God's predetermined course of saving mankind, why was Jesus so sorrowful in accepting it? Why would he pray that the cup of suffering pass from him? The argument has been made that the Gethsemane scene simply reflects the emergency of Jesus' "human weakness."
Nevertheless, it is a fact that numerous martyrs have gone to their to their deaths joyfully and serenely. The first martyr, Stephen, who died by stoning, went to his death with a joyful heart. (Acts 7:54-59). Likewise, it is said that Peter, faced as Jesus was by crucifixion, reacted simply by requesting he be allowed to be crucified upside down.
Beyond the religious sphere, the revolutionary war patriot Nathan Hale was sorry he could die only once for his country. Could Jesus be less heroic than these? Could Jesus, the Savior of mankind, have less faith than others when he prayed to have the cup taken from him? Certainly not. He desperately prayed, even three times because he knew his death on the cross was not God's primary will. In his agony he sought some possible way to fulfill the divine mandate.
We may also note that if Jesus' crucifixion had been God's predetermined plan, the role of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, should have been vital in God's sight. If Judas' action had helped to accomplish God's will, why did he hang himself afterward?
The action of Judas was rebellious, and Jesus is reported as clearly displaying his anger at Judas' treachery: "...but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! it would have been better for that man if he had not been born." (Mt. 26:24)
From this and other reasons given above, Divine Principle stresses that the cross was not the primary intention of Jesus, although it quickly became the preoccupation of the early Church. Jesus came to fulfill God's original ideal. He came that men might have life and have it more abundantly.
Had Jesus been able to gain acceptance by his people, world history would have developed along very different lines that it did. Following Jesus, we may imagine the people of Israel would have become the enlightened center of a glorious new world. The subsequent split between Judaism and Christianity would never have occurred. The early Christians would never have had to confront their terrible sufferings and the pain and conflict which humanity has faced over the past 2,000 years would have been avoided. Also, since the mission of the Messiah would have been completed, there would be no need for the prophesied Second Coming.
To understand Jesus' mission in terms of a defeat, however, would be an error. As we have indicated, God is seeking both the physical and spiritual salvation of humanity. As a result of the crucifixion, however, the physical selves of mankind are still subject to satanic invasion. Reflecting this reality, Paul writes to his fellow Christians in Rome: "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not what I want, but I do the very thing I hate....For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind." (Rom. 7:14-23)
Despite the frustration of God's primary intention for Jesus, Divine Principle affirms that the secondary course adopted by Jesus salvaged a victory. Though the crucifixion was a defeat, the resurrection was a victory opening the way to spiritual salvation for all people. Through the resurrection. God opened the way to a realm free from Satanic accusation.
While it is true that no physical body, including that of Jesus, can survive biological death, spiritual bodies are not affected by the end of physical existence. Therefore, Jesus' body was resurrected. This resurrection gave a new religious life to those who had united with Jesus in spirit. Because God had sacrificed the son He loved the most for the sake of those who rejected him, Satan no longer had a base from which to accuse God. The cross was Satan's victory, but the resurrection was God's. Through it, God could begin a new dispensation of spiritual salvation through the resurrected Jesus.
Even after Jesus' appearance on earth, the world continues to suffer under the power of evil. Complete redemption, both spiritual and physical, thus awaits the Second Advent. Through the word of the new Messiah, the prospect of the liquidation of humanity's sin and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth will be offered again.
Next Month • The Perfect Man
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