Why did Christ not die sooner? After all, he instructed others to turn the other cheek. Why did he not do so to his enemies? There was at least one mob who tried to stone him or throw him off a cliff. Yet he walked right through them and escaped. Others tried to trap him in a legal conundrum by bringing him a woman caught in adultery. If he said to stone her it would violate Roman law. If he decided not to it would violate Jewish law. He did not, however, turn the other cheek. He did not willingly become trapped. Again and again the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to find fault in him yet he got the better of them every time.
Jesus required of his followers that if a thief takes from them their coat, you ought also to run after him and offer him your shoes as well. Should Christ do less? So why did Christ not willingly, even enthusiastically, give himself up to his accusers and fault finders? Could we not now accuse him of hypocrisy?
If the problem we see is a problem of giving, then the solution must be found in giving also. In other words, If Christ did not give himself to his accusers it is because he had already given himself over to something else. One cannot give what one does not have. And one cannot give what is already given previously.
Christ’s will was submitted to the Father, and the will of the Father was for Christ to instill in his followers the Kingdom of God. For while he could not give his life to his accusers it was only because he was pouring it out to his disciples. His goal was to regenerate mankind beginning with this tiny band. When, finally, it came time for Christ to die it was only because his project resulted in failure. God had told him it was finally time to give himself over to his enemies, and even then, Christ beseeched God that this cup pass from him. He did not want to die. And he did not want to die because he did not come for the express purpose of dying. He came for the express purpose of living; living as mankind always should have lived: giving themselves to one other with reckless abandon. Pouring our lives out to one another.
Shamefully, it turns out, to be really human in this world is to be taken advantage of and killed. Christ’s death showed up the world of man for what it really was. Christ could not change it. This fact was brought home to him right after he begged of God that he would not die. He came back to find that his disciples could not even manage to pray with him one hour, his most needful hour, but instead gave in to their tired flesh and slept. They could not give him an hour because humanity was too weak; even a humanity that had spent every waking hour with the giver of strength. They had spent three years with him but could not manage another hour. Christ had failed, not because he missed the mark, so to speak, but because the mark could not take being shot.
It was then, upon this realization of his failure, that he could give no more to his disciples, but still had everything to give to his enemies. All they ever wanted was him, to do with what they wanted: to summarily dismiss him as a fraud and madman, to take what he willingly gave. His life.
Thankfully, God’s response to this failure was a pouring out of his love to the world. He sent his Holy Spirit to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts so that we may give as Christ gave; so that we may live as he lived. This is the good news, that despite our brokenness, God loves the whole world. Salvation has come to mankind! While we were yet sinners taking Christ’s life by our own hands, he died for us.