Jesus was unwilling to die so God would surely rescue him

Jesus seeks for physical protection by asking his disciples to buy swords.

Luke 22:35-38 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing ,” they answered. {36} He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. {37} It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.” {38} The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied.

Muslims say that Jesus called on his disciples to carry swords because he was not prepared to die and wanted them to defend him.

The reason why Jesus instructed His disciples to carry swords was because he knew that very soon the unbelievers would be getting more hos­tile against them. Notice that he didn’t just ask them to carry only swords, he told them to carry a purse and a sack as well. This was necessary as the believers had no one to turn to but themselves. This can be contrasted with Jesus’ previous order to his disciples to go out without any purse or sack or scandals. They did that and still lacked nothing (vs 35) because the believers were not as hostile to them at that time. Therefore, Jesus wanted his disciples to defend themselves, not to protect him from arrest.

The fact that Jesus expected and was ready to die can be seen from what he said must come true for himself. In Lk 22:37, He quoted the prophesy from Isaiah 53:12 :”And he was numbered with the transgressors” which prophecies his death together with sinners (ie the two robbers). He knew he was going to be crucified so that the prophecy would come true. He wasn’t asking his disciples to defend him. Furthermore, how could two swords be enough to fight against the Roman soldiers?

Finally, in Luke 22:47‑51, we read that when the Roman soldiers actually came to arrest Jesus, he permitted no violence but instead allowed himself to be arrested. He even scolded Peter when he took out his sword and attacked a Roman soldier.(vs 51,52)

Jesus seeks for physical protection by asking his disciples to act as sentries.

Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” {37} He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. {38} Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” {39} Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” {40} Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. {41} “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” {42} He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” {43} When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. {44} So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. {45} Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} Rise , let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

In Matthew 26:36‑46, Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane with 11 of his disciples. He then put eight men at the gate, telling them, “stay here and watch with me”. He did that because he wanted them to guard the place. He then brought 3 of the remaining disciples with him to be his bodyguards. Why did Jesus go all the way to Gethsemane which is five miles out of town to pray. Why couldn’t he pray at Jerusalem? He must have done so to avoid his enemies.

Jesus did not ask his disciples to guard the place for him. The word “watch” means “to keep awake”. Jesus was asking his disciples to keep awake with him. This can be seen from verse 40 when Jesus came back and found His disciples sleeping. He scolded them, “Could you not watch (keep awake) with me one hour?” Why did He tell them to keep awake. Not to guard but to pray that they may not enter into temptation (vs. 41). Surely Jesus is not saying, “Guard the place and pray so that you will not enter into temptation.” I wonder how they can guard and pray at the same time. Also, how can one not fall into temptation by simply guarding the place. We see that the whole sentence becomes non-sensical if we choose to interpret “watch” as “guard”.

Jesus himself said He does not need bodyguards. If he needed them, the Father would have provided more than twelve legions of angels to protect him.

Matthew 26:53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Finally, Jesus did not go to Gethsemane to avoid his enemies. He knew what was going to happen to him (vs.54,56). On the contrary, many times Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection (Matthew 17:22‑23, 20:18,19).

Jesus prayed that God would rescue him and He did.

Jesus, through this prayer, showed his unwillingness to die. He also prayed for God to deliver him from his imminent death.

(Mat 26:39)  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Being a man of God, God would surely hear his prayer and rescue him.

(John 8:29 NIV)  The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

PSA 20:6  Now know I that the LORD saveth his ANOINTED–CHRIST; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.

Christian response

Muslims are right in saying that God will definitely hear and answer the prayer of Jesus. But what did Jesus pray for? Two things. One, for the suffering to pass from him, if it is possible. Two, for God’s will to be done.

Firstly, it is not possible that the suffering be passed from Jesus. Jesus knew that he came to earth with the purpose of dying for the sins of mankind.

(John 12:27)  “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

(Mark 10:45)  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Secondly, Jesus prayed that God’s will be done and it was God’s will to take his life as an atonement for sin. This statement of God’s will was revealed even in the Old Testament.

(Isa 53:10)  Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

Jesus’ pray did not indicate his unwillingness to die. It indicated his fear of dying on the cross and that fear was naturally because as a man, he could feel pain. If he was not afraid, it is hard for me to believe that Jesus was a man. Secondly, that prayer is a clear declaration of Jesus’ willingness to die. Because although he knew that God’s will was for him to die on the cross, he prayed that God’s will be done.

Jesus was surprised that God had forsaken him.

 (Mat 27:46)  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Why should Jesus pray this prayer, saying that God had forsaken him? God must have promised him earlier that He would deliver him from death.

Jesus’ cry on the cross about God forsaking him was not a protest to God for what He did not do as promised – namely that He will rescue him. The cry is one of real agony, to have his Father, with whom he was so close, separated from him because of the sins of the world that were upon his shoulder.

An angel strengthened Jesus.

 (Luke 22:43)  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

Since Jesus was strengthened by an angel, he could not have died.

Being strengthened by an angel does not have to mean that the angel is going to protect Jesus from death. This is reading too much into a text. It could be that the angel is strengthening Jesus physically so that he could face the crucifixion.

Jesus said the father did not leave him alone.

 (John 8:29)  The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

Since the father did not leave Jesus alone, Jesus could not have died.

This is also reading too much into a text. Remember Jesus said many times that he came here to die. Now because of a general statement like “he has not left me alone”, is Jesus is totally contradicting himself and saying that actually he did not die? The general rule of interpretation (and it applies to both the Quran and the Bible) is not to interpret a general text such that it would deliberately contradict a specific text.

The book of Hebrews tells us that God saved Jesus from his death.

 (Heb 5:7)  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

We need to read this verse carefully. Jesus offered prayers to God and he was heard because of his reverent submission. And this God could save Jesus from death. Jesus said elsewhere that he could call on his father and who will at once protect him.

(Mat 26:53)  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

But the verse does not say that Jesus prayed to God to deliver him from death and God agreed to do so.

The Old Testament also teaches that God delivered Jesus.

 (Psa 20:6)  Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.

Ps 20:6 is not talking about Jesus. It is a prayer by the people of Israel for their king, David. Notice in v3 that the person who is being prayed for offers “burnt offerings”. Jesus never did that. The people also prayed that God will save his anointed as they trust in God rather than in chariots and horses (v7). Finally, in v 9, the people asked God to save the king. I will reproduce the whole psalm below.

(Psa 20)  For the director of music. A psalm of David. May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. {2} May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. {3} May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah {4} May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. {5} We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. {6} Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. {7} Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. {8} They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. {9} O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

The “anointed” need not always to refer to Jesus. In the Old Testament, many other persons were described as being anointed by God, among them the priests, King Saul, etc. (Lev 4:3, 1 Sam 12:3). David is also one person who was anointed. Therefore, the “anointed” in Ps 20:6 could easily refer to him.

(1 Sam 16:12-13)  So he sent and had him (ie David) brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” {13} So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.

God didn’t save Jesus from his death. If He did, why was Jesus saved from death only hours of indescribable agony and torture to the point of death? Such pain and torture would have been unnecessary and God’s deliverance would have been a tragic delay.

Or some would believe that God saved Jesus only by having to put someone else in his place to go through the dreadful torture. Is all this necessary?