How much did Jesus know about what was going to happen to him and when? As I look at the calendar, I am aware that we are approaching “Holy Week,” the time that parallels the last days of Jesus’s ministry and life on earth. Those of us who know the story recognize that this Sunday–Palm Sunday–marks the beginning of the end. It’s like watching a movie where you watch the protagonist as he moves unknowingly into danger. We watch the scenes unfold with increasing anxiety as we see the forces coming together slowly and inexorably toward a grim and inevitable conclusion. But what did Jesus know and when did he know it?
It must’ve been tough for him, balancing that whole “son of man/son of God” thing. I imagine there were times when he totally knew what was about to happen, when he could practically (or really) read the minds and intentions of the people around him and know what they were going to do. But what about the times when he was simply the carpenter’s son, the son of man, did he know about the scheming and machinations of the people around him? Did he realize how quickly the tides would turn against him?
He wouldn’t have had to be the son of God to know that things were bad. The heightened animosity between him and the religious establishment, the brutal oppression that the Roman empire visited upon the people of the region, and even the beheading of his cousin John, who had baptized him three years earlier, must have all been red flags that it wasn’t going to go well for him. Plus there were all those prophecies that seemed to point to a rather grim fate for him. Still, would it be better not to know? I wonder how much of his life did he spend knowing, perhaps not how exactly it would end, but that it would likely end badly.
Sometimes I feel as though I live in a bit of a bubble, walking through the days in a fog. I may have a sense here or there that something is happening around me, and watch with interest (and occasional amusement) the political maneuvering and posturing of people more interested in status and power than improving the lives and lots of people. But having an inkling is not the same as knowing, and watching the maneuvering is not the same as getting drawn into it.
Having never had the whole “child (son) of God thing,” I have spent my entire life as a “child of man.” I have not lived my whole life knowing I was destined for greatness, as well as great suffering. I may have had moments here or there, but they were mere glimmers of possibilities. I don’t know how he carried around any degree of foreknowledge of what was going to happen. I can barely get through the mini-dramas and disappointments that occur on the regular in my working life.
I always learn something during these 40-day explorations, sometimes I don’t realize it for some weeks after Resurrection Sunday has come and gone. The week ahead will chronicle the last days Jesus spent with his disciples and followers and the arrest, torture, suffering and death of a remarkable human being. While I can only guess at the mental, emotional, and spiritual strain he was under, these 40-plus days have provided an opportunity to think about and learn him, directly and indirectly, every day. And that is a very good thing.