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Christian Biblical Studies
WHEN JESUS FEARED
Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version, unless noted otherwise.
Q Hebrews 5: 7, 8 says of Jesus that, ‘in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him [God] that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.’
What was Jesus afraid of? Why?
A Young’s Literal Translation phrases the relevant section in v. 7 this way: ‘having been heard in respect to that which he feared’. That is, with regard to the event of which He was the most afraid – a death on the cross, with all the implications that would carry – a reputation for criminality and the utter humiliation of it.
The Revised Standard Version takes a different tack, adopting the alternative meaning of fear as piety: ‘and he was heard for his godly fear’. The Wycliffe Bible concurs in this latter rendering: ‘and was heard for his reverence’.
All three sample translations do agree that the object in view, at which Jesus naturally recoiled (humanly speaking), was death on the cross.
Nonetheless, one may argue that greater than all other concerns was His own dread that He might fail in His mission.
We might wonder, how could Jesus, the anointed Christ, not succeed? Nevertheless, in Gethsemane it was His anxiety that He might not overcome in this ultimate test which awaited Him that coaxed from Him the bloody sweat (Luke 22: 44) and the heart-rending plea to His Father that ʻif it be possible, let this cup pass from meʼ (Matt. 26: 36-39).
Jesus was neither flawed nor cowardly, but on His shoulders rested the eternal fate of mankind – past, present and future. It is impossible for us to comprehend the staggering implications of the position He was in. Though He was perfect in all respects, He did not in that moment feel His victory was assured. Naturally, had He known with full certainty the successful outcome of His ministry, He would not have been tried to the utmost, nor learned ‘obedience by the things which he suffered’.
The final blow to His confidence came when He was on the cross, nearing death, about the ‘ninth hour’. Perplexed by His Father’s sudden (perceived) abandonment of Him, Jesusʼ called out, pathetically (Matt. 27: 46), ʻMy God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?ʼ – for He had to die in the sinner's place, as though He were the sinner. His distress soon gave way to the calm assurance that His sacrifice had been successfully accomplished and accepted by the Father. It is finished.
August 2018. no copyright