In the letter to the Hebrews, we are told: In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
We might well think to ourselves: it doesn’t look to me like he was heard. He certainly underwent a terrible death even though God the Father is called “the one who was able to save him from death.” We must remember that Jesus took upon himself our human nature principally so that he could die for us! His redemptive death on the cross was the high point of his career on earth, and was then validated by his resurrection from the tomb about 40 hours later.
In the garden of Gethsemani on that previous Thursday night, he had prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me.” He knew it wasn’t possible. He knew that if he had been delivered from death, he would have failed of the whole purpose of his incarnation. But the prospect of the scourging, crowning with thorns, and the horror of crucifixion was so frightening that he cried out to the Father from the depths of human fear. Remember, he was like us in all things but sin. Fear is not sin, and crucifixion is an indescribably cruel, painful death. So, as Jesus himself says on that night of fear and grief, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Well, we ask, how can Hebrews say “He was heard”? He was heard in two ways: he was given the courage to go through his passion and death, and then his sufferings and death were made efficacious as the salvation of the world by his resurrection. God hears all prayers, and in his wisdom and love, he does what he knows to be best. He doesn’t save Jesus from death, rather he makes the death of Jesus the source of life for billions of others.
When you buy a little packet of seeds in the store, they will remain just as they are unless they are planted. Then they will grow and produce the marvels of which they are capable. Had Jesus not died, the divine seed of his body would not have been planted in the earth so as to produce a harvest greater than we can imagine. To fulfill the divine plan for our salvation, he had to die. And he did die, saying with his parched, feverish lips, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Loving and obedient to the end. The disobedient Adam’s sin which all mankind inherited is now overpowered by the obedient Jesus’s death on the cross. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.