Gospel Matters: Did Jesus know he was going to die?

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Gospel Matters: Did Jesus know he was going to die?
“He wept over it” by Enrique Simonet

Dr. Christine E. Wood, Director of the Office of Evangelisation & Catechesis

We sometimes hear today that Jesus didn’t know he was God, or that Jesus came to the realisation that he was God’s Son over a long process of discovering God the Father’s plan for his life. Sometimes we hear that Jesus didn’t know that he was the Messiah until his baptism, or not even until his death and resurrection. But do these statements square with the testimony of Scripture?

I would propose to you that they do not for one simple reason and that is, Jesus predicted his own passion, death and resurrection three times during his public ministry. These predictions were no vague prophecy based on Jesus’ knowledge of the growing animosity from his opponents. Rather, Jesus gave a detailed account of his future suffering, death, and resurrection. No single Old Testament prophecy outlines all the details of the Messiah’s life, death and resurrection. Jesus had to have divine knowledge in order to know how all the prophecies were to be fulfilled in ways that not even the Jewish scribes could imagine. Jesus knew the divine plan of salvation because he was God.

Some people consider Jesus to be simply a good man, or a Jewish prophet, who, wanting to force God’s hand to usher in the kingdom of God, threw himself into the hands of the Roman authorities to be executed. They say Jesus trusted that God would vindicate him by intervening to liberate the Jewish people from their Roman oppressors. But in the end, after Jesus failed in his mission by dying, his disillusioned disciples invented the myth of his resurrection and started the new religious movement called Christianity.

Again this position is full of holes. There is a vast amount of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, from ancient Christian and non-Christian sources. Far from inventing a myth about Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples left everything in order to spread the good news of Jesus’ triumph over death, and they even suffered martyrdom for their testimony. Would any reasonable person willingly undergo torture and martyrdom for a mere myth?

What’s common about these false opinions of Jesus’ knowledge of his mission is that they can’t reconcile the fact that he is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ humanness does not preclude his divine knowledge. In fact, his divine knowledge enables him to be fully human, to lay down his life voluntarily for love of all of us, and trust that God the Father’s love would raise him from the dead. This indeed is the beginning of the kingdom of God among us: the triumph of love over sin, death, and Satan. As children of this kingdom, let us rejoice in our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has liberated us, and shown us the love of God the Father.