Did God Force Jesus to Die on the Cross?

December 07, 2023

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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz tackles the question of whether God forced Jesus to die on the cross. She shares how to approach this question with children and emphasizes the importance of affirming their curiosity and directing them to Scripture for answers. Elizabeth explores passages from Matthew, Hebrews, and Philippians to show that Jesus willingly chose to lay down his life and that God exalted him as a result. This episode provides practical guidance for parents and caregivers on how to navigate theological questions with children.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "Did God force Jesus to die on the cross? My two boys ages five and eight think that God was mean to his only son." This is a really important question for us to think through, and it's one I'm excited to think through because it's a little bit more apologetic than some of the questions we sometimes receive. So we're going to be thinking through, okay, did God the Father force Jesus, God the Son, to die on the cross? And then how do we present that to our kids?

But before we dive deep into answering that question today, if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast. Also, if you have found the content of this podcast beneficial, I would ask that you like and subscribe and also that you take time to either write a review or comment in the comment section just so that we can get more traffic and get more people equipped to get their kids carefully evaluating every idea that they encounter.

Now for this question, did God force Jesus to die on the cross? And then this is a question that two young boys ages five and eight are asking. Anytime our children ask a question like this, the first thing that we want to do is affirm it because our kids are naturally going to have questions. That's part of God's design for their development. Having questions is a really good thing, and we want our children to know this, and we want to make sure that when they have questions, they verbalize those questions. They don't just let those questions simmer inside of them and then cause doubt in their minds.

Now, doubt isn't always a bad thing. It can be a good thing to have these questions and uncertainties, but we just want to make sure that we have the opportunity to help our kids understand how to address these questions as they arise.

So for this parent who wrote this question in, the first thing I would encourage you to do is just to affirm your sons that this is such a good question and it's a important one for us to think through. I'm so proud that you're thinking critically as we're reading through God's word because we want to know the answers to these types of questions.

And so then the next thing that I would do is ask the child or the children, "Okay, so where should we look to find the answer to this question? Well, we should look to Scripture. And why is that?" Well, it's in Scripture that we hear the narratives of Jesus's life. And then in the New Testament, the rest of the New Testament, we get the commentary or the explanation on how we are to understand Jesus's life, death, and resurrection. So we're going to want to look to Scripture. And then we want to make sure that as we're helping our kids find answers to these questions, that we are taking them directly to God's word and we're letting God's word speak for itself. Now, there might be times where we have to offer some further explanation, but we want to make sure that the pattern that we're setting up and establishing for our children is not that we are the experts on all of the answers to these questions, but that we know where to find the answers, and we want to make sure that we're establishing God's word as the authority.

So once you've affirmed your children for asking these questions then ask them, "Where should we go to find answers? Well, we should go to God's word because that's where we learn about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and then what that means." And so a great passage that I think we can take our kids to read different parts of it and to ask different questions is Matthew chapter 26, because that is one of the chapters that talks about Jesus' being arrested and then put on trial. And so the first portion of Scripture that I think we could read through with our children to answer this question is verses 36 to 46. It goes right in order. Matthew chapter 26 verses 36 to 46. I'll read these verses for us and then we'll talk through some of the questions we could ask kids after reading these verses.

Verse 36 starts and says, "Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane and he said to his disciples, sit here while I go over there and pray and taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zee. He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, my soul is very sorrowful even to death remain here and watch with me. And going a little farther, he fell on his face and prayed saying, my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, so could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, my father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. And again, he came and found them sleeping for their eyes were heavy, so leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, sleep and your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand."

Okay, so once we read through this passage in the garden with our kids, a great question we can ask is, what does this passage teach us about Jesus and his willingness to die? And then we're going to want to anchor that back in Scripture. And so ask our kids, what does this passage teach us about Jesus and his willingness to die? And then ask them, okay, what verses do we see this? And we see this in Jesus's prayer in verse 39, "my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." Then again in verse 42 it says, "My father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." We want to talk with our kids through, okay, so is Jesus wanting? Is his flesh wanting to go to the cross? And when I say flesh, I don't mean flesh as in sin, nature, I mean flesh as in physical body. Is he wanting to go to the cross? Well, no, he is very anguished over this. He wishes that there were another way for this to happen. But what do we see about his willingness to die? That he says, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And then in the next part, he says, "your will be done."

So what do we see about Jesus' desires here? Well, we see he desired to not have this happen, but he had a greater desire. And what was that greater desire? That greater desire was to do the will of his father. So are we seeing Jesus be forced into this? No, we're seeing him choose to submit to the will of his father.

And now this might be confusing for kids to understand. So a question that we could follow up and ask is, have you ever not wanted to do something but decided to go through with it because you wanted something else more? And so we can, if our kids can't think about that, we can even give them examples. Do you remember when we were at the grocery store and you really wanted to buy a piece of candy, but you were saving up your money for that new Lego set and you wanted the new Lego set more than you wanted the candy bar? So it was really hard for you to say no and not to spend your money on the candy bar, but you chose to withhold from getting the candy bar so that you could fulfill your greater desire of getting a Lego set.

For older children, for teenagers talking about there's going to be a lot of sexual temptation, and a lot of people are tempted to have sex before they're married. But for people who really want to honor God and believe him and his word, they choose to say no to any premarital sexual activity to be faithful to God and his commands.

And so we can talk through this with our kids. It's possible for our desires to be conflicted for us not want to want to do something, but to choose to do that thing because we want something greater. And so it's similar here with Jesus that did he really long to go to the cross and all that that entailed? No. But his desire to submit to the will of his father was even greater.

Then we can continue on in Matthew chapter 26, picking up right where we left off in verse 47 and read through verse 54. I'm going to read this section for us now. This passage says, "While he was still speaking, Judas came one of the 12 and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign saying, the one eye kiss is the man sees him. And he came up to Jesus at once and said, greetings, rabbi. And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, friend, do what you came to do. Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, put your sword back into its place for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my father and he will at once send me more than 12 legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so?"

Okay, so in this passage, once we read through this second portion of Matthew chapter 26, what we could ask our children is what could Jesus have asked for that he didn't? According to this passage, what could Jesus have asked for that he didn't? And then in verse 53, it says, do you think that I cannot appeal to my father and he will at once send me more than 12 legions of angels that Jesus, if he wanted to, he could have appealed to God the Father, and God the Father would've sent him angels to take care of all of those who were arresting him. Jesus could have been released immediately, but he chose not to do that.

And so then we can ask our children, "okay, so based off of what we saw with Jesus's prayer in the garden and his desire not to die, but his stronger desire to submit to the Father's will, and then this fact that he could have appealed to God and God would've sent him angels that would've taken care of all of his accusers. What do we see about our question? Did God the Father force Jesus to die? Or did Jesus willingly choose to lay down his life?" And from this passage, we see that Jesus willingly chose to die.

Now, was it the Father's will that Jesus should die and bear the wrath for arson on the cross? Yes, that was the Father's will and Jesus wanted the Father's will more than he wanted the easy route. So from this passage, we see a really clear answer. And then as I mentioned before, well I didn't mention this before, but all of the Old Testament is pointing towards Jesus. All of the Old Testament points towards the need for a Messiah. And then the Gospels outline who that Messiah is and what he did. And then the rest of the New Testament is really the commentary explaining to us more fully who Jesus is, what he has done for us, and how we are to live in response.

So after we've taken our children through these gospels, what we should then do next is go to other passages in the New Testament that explain more about Jesus's death. And I think there's two great passages we could take our kids to. The first is in Hebrews chapter 12, verses one and two, the author writes, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

So we can read this passage with our children and then say, "Okay, what does this passage say? Or I'm sorry, why does this passage say that Jesus endured the cross?" It says in this passage that who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. So this passage tells us that even though Jesus was in the garden and he was really struggling and he did not want to go to the cross, it was joy that was set before him. And that is why he endured the cross, the joy of obeying his Father, the joy of purchasing, reconciliation and redemption for us. So this passage lets us know that even though it was harder than we can ever imagine, for Jesus to go to the cross, he did so for the joy that was set before him.

And then another passage we can take our children to is Philippians chapter two, verses 5-11. In this passage, Paul writes, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every niche bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."

So we can read this passage with our children and then ask, "Okay, after Jesus's death, what has God the Father done for Jesus?" This passage tells us that he is exalted. Jesus is highly exalted. God has bestowed on him the name that is above every name, and that one day every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow before him and will confess that he is Lord and that this brings glory to the Father. So Jesus is now highly exalted. He's been given a name above every name, and one day everyone will bow before him. That this was the eternal plan that God the Father had in mind when he willed God the Son to die, and that God the son also knew about as well.

And so we want our children to see this and we want them to see it anchored in Scripture that it's not just our opinion about whether or not the Father forced Jesus to die and if he was mean to him, but it's actually Scripture showing us that no God did not force Jesus to die, that the will of the Father and the will of the Son are one that Jesus willed to do His father's will, and he willingly chose to go to the cross. And then Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, and he has now been highly exalted.

So I hope as we went through these different passages of Scripture and talked through questions that we can ask our kids that what I modeled will be something that we can take and implement in any situation where our children ask us some theological question that they're wrestling with, that we can take them to Scripture, read Scripture, and then ask them questions so that they're the ones who are wrestling through this and seeing the answer very clearly laid out in Scripture because this is what we want them to do when they have questions, when they're no longer within the walls of our home, that when they have questions or they have doubts, they know, "Okay, what I need to do is I need to dive into the scriptures and see what has God revealed about this topic in his Word."

Well, that's a wrap for today's episode. But as we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves, you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more to the image His Son. I'll see you next time.

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