At our small groups at Holy Trinity we are working through a stimulating study guide called Finding Christ in the Old Testament [CFP, Inversness, 2002]. One question raised this week by a group was “could Jesus have chosen not to die on the cross?
To answer this, we distinguish: The choice Jesus faced was a real choice. He possessed the liberty of indifference. He could choose to be crucified or not to be crucified and his heart would decide the matter.
As a real human person, Jesus, would normally have have chosen the latter, the less painful option, not to be crucified. He was repulsed by the thought of the pain he would endure on the cross and this must have been a tempting option.
But Jesus chose to be crucified and he did this because his nature constrained his will. Namely, his deep desire to obey his Father’s will (Mark 14:35-36) and his deep love for sinners under wrath (Mark 10:21), moved him to choose the painful option.
With this understanding of Christ’s nature the question changes from, “could Jesus have chosen not to be crucified?” to “could Jesus have sinned against his Father and could he have selfishly decided to allow others to be damned?” The very real temptation to choose not to be crucified was great but Jesus did not sin against the will of his Father nor did not act selfishly, because his nature constrained him, praise be to God!