Did Jesus have a choice about dying on the cross?


I have a question that I hope you can help me with: I was raised in the church of Christ, but in my twenties I quit attending. After three decades, I returned and am now a faithful member. A lot of things changed in the years that I was away. One thing that really bothers me is the idea the Christ had a choice about being crucified. I don't believe this is true, and I do not believe the scriptures support this teaching. Can you please help me with this question?


It would depend on how you wish to approach the question. It is true that there was no other way to save mankind from their sins. Given God's great love for His people, Jesus had no other choice if He was to save us from our sins.

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

"But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain" (John 12:23-24).

Jesus did not look forward to doing what was necessary. "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour" (John 12:27). Notice that Jesus did not like what he had to face, but he willingly chose to do it because that was what as needed.

"As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. ... Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father" (John 10:15-17-18).

Jesus was commanded by the Father to sacrifice himself in order to save mankind from their sins. No one forced Jesus to obey that command, including the Father. Jesus chose to do it because he knew what it would lead to. "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

So in another way, yes, Jesus could have chosen to leave mankind in sin and not die on their behalf, but he loved us too much to let that happen. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Romans 5:8-11).

He didn't have a choice in the way people would be saved or the way he needed to die in order to save us. But he did voluntarily choose to obey the Father's command in order to save his people. He wasn't dragged against his will to die upon the cross. The Gospels makes it clear that all the way to his death, Jesus was both in control and could have stopped it if he so desired. "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" (Matthew 26:53-54). It is his willingness to die on our behalf that is a part of the precious gift that he offered us.

"And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God" (I Peter 1:17-21).

Thank you for your reply to my question and I will certainly print this answer and study it thoroughly. Regardless, it was prophesied and the will of God. I long for the church of my youth when the Word was gospel and was preached as such without all the modern spin of choices and freewill.

Then you were not among the churches of Christ in your youth because free-will has always been taught in the churches. I have read sermons that date back to the 1700's and earlier which show this, and, of course, free-will is taught by God. See: "Free Will and the Power of God" for more details. Please note that while you long for the Word being taught, I thoroughly documented what the Bible teaches. You only stated what you think ought to be there.

I am struggling to understand, and, no, the Church of Christ that my family attended and my father was an elder in did not expound on choice and free-will. The church I am attending now only recently started teaching this in sermons. That is why it is such a new topic for me. I did read your article on Free Will and the Power of God and this helped. I read your questions and answers page a lot and this has helped me to understand a lot of the questions that I have had.

A lack of teaching does not equate to a lack of belief. I've noticed that over time certain issues come and go as fads to discuss. Some issues get taught so much that it is assumed that everyone knows it, so it isn't brought up. But the concept of free-will has long been taught. For instance, in this article on Alexander Campbell who preached in the early 1800's, Campbell was "known for his debating skills on issues of free will and baptism by immersion" [Alexander Campbell]. "Barton W. Stone and Richard McNemar were Presbyterian ministers working in Illinois. Following the Cane Ridge Revival, they came to reject the strict Calvinism of the day, as they saw men and women by the thousands choosing to follow Jesus as a matter of free will, in response to the preaching of the word by men of differing denominations" [ Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: Barton W. Stone and Richard McNemar]. That these early preachers taught it doesn't make it right or wrong, but it does prove my point that free-will isn't a recent innovation.