Catholic author and psychologist Walker Percy was interested mostly in exploring the minds of a group of which he was a member: people he described as “ex-suicides”. This group, he said, had looked at life, realized the difficulty and pain which it could hold, accepted the possibility of leaving it, and had chosen not to. He explained that there was a certain freedom these individuals now enjoyed, because, unlike the vast majority of their peers, they had chosen to be alive. Any sorrow, trial, or suffering life could throw at them was something they had reckoned with and chosen, because they decided it was better to be alive.
I think it is fruitful, especially on Good Friday, to contemplate how the same is true for Jesus Christ. He knew better than anyone the weight of sin, the pain it can cause. This is true for the same reason that He is able to forgive our sins: they are all against Him, in the end. Knowing this, He would have to have known that He would be rejected, failed, abandoned, persecuted, tortured, and murdered by those whom He desired to save. By us.
And yet he chose to be alive on Earth.
For the people Percy describes, choosing to be alive is a sort of gamble. They’re betting that the world or their experience of it will improve, that the good will outweigh the bad. They can begin looking for that bet to be rewarded, and any positive development is a potential answer. In the end, though, their life remains a search for meaning, for why their decision was the correct one.
For Jesus, though, this was never a question which needed answering. He always knew why he had chosen to come to Earth, to live among us, suffer, and die. He chose to live a human life because He wanted us to be able to live eternally with Him. As He looked at the suffering which this mission promised, it was always worth it to Him.
We were always worth it to Him.
This does not, however, minimize the reality of the agony He underwent. If anything, it intensifies it. To most, if not all of us, the mission undertaken by Christ is insane, if not completely pointless. His plan to bring us closer to Him is to become one of us, be rejected and murdered, and offer Himself as a love offering on our behalf to his Father, and even then, even his most devoted followers would fail Him, reject Him, and forget Him all the time. He would offer Himself as atonement for our sin, and we would just keep sinning. This seems like a bad deal, like it just wouldn’t be worth it.
And yet He does it anyway.
Jesus’ choice is significantly different from Percy’s in the end, because Jesus gives something up by becoming human. To go from Heaven to life on Earth is, to put it mildly, a downgrade, and yet He still chose to live a human life, that we might know Him. We are worth that downgrade.
The question, in the end, is not the truth of these statements, or whether it was wise for Christ to do as He did, because “the wisdom of God is folly to the world” and we can never hope to understand His ways.
The question is whether we reward His choice, by receiving His love and following Him.
We are praying for all of you this Good Friday, please be praying for us.
Andy Brandt is a Staff Editor, Producer, and General Ne’er-do-well at Konza Catholic. You can find his writing on Catholicism, Justice, and Politics here.