“Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” —Luke 24:26
Whenever I catch myself starting a sentence with “God must,” I pause and think about how to adjust or rephrase what I’m intending to say. Because God is perfectly free. There’s nothing at all that God, strictly speaking must do. Starting a sentence with “God must” is a good indication that I’m not talking about the God revealed in Jesus Christ, but instead I have in mind some kind of false god that is bound by something beyond itself.
And yet these words in Luke 24, from Jesus’ own mouth, refer to his own death as “necessary” (a good translation from the Greek account of Jesus’ presumably Aramaic words).
This doesn’t mean that there were some cosmic rules greater than God that God had to follow, and thus Jesus had to suffer the things he suffered. Rather, Jesus went on to explain to the men he was talking with that throughout the history of Israel, God had been working out this particular plan. God, in absolute freedom, chose to work out his rescue plan for creation in this way. Jesus’ suffering was necessary based on the plan that God had put into action; this was the Father’s will, carried out by his beloved Son.
Jesus did not go grudgingly to the cross. This was how he demonstrated his love for us, by suffering and dying and rising in victory over sin and death. Alleluia!