Today’s questions that were submitted by the congregation have to do with the intersection between our free will and God’s plans.
Was Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ crucifixion a part of God’s plan? Could humans have changed the outcome?
Allow me to answer these one at a time.
Was Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ crucifixion a part of God’s plan?
Could humans have changed the outcome?
Wait, how can both things be true at once? How is it possible for both Judas and Jesus to have free will and yet also operate according to God’s plan?
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus endured one of his lowest moments. He said his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matthew 26:38). He knew that within hours he’d be arrested, an act that would lead to an excruciating death. He did not want to go through such torment and torture.
In his hour of greatest peril, Jesus prayed.
In particular, he prayed for God to take away his cup of suffering. If there was anyway to avoid the coming suffering, Jesus sought it. But in a moment of unrivaled faith, he said “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus could have refused to follow God’s plan— he had that power. But Jesus chose to submit his will to God’s.
At that same moment, Judas was being paid blood money to betray Jesus.
Earlier, during dinner, Jesus spoke to his disciples and said he knew that one of them would betray him. “But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’” (John 13:18).
Jesus knew that Judas would betray him even before he did it. The scriptures had long predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed by a friend. So did Judas have a choice?
We are all responsible for our actions—good or bad. Judas did not have to be the one to betray Jesus. Someone would have, but it didn’t have to be Judas. His own heart led him down that path.
But if God knows what we’re going to do before we do it, how can we be held responsible?
Step outside this story for a moment and consider time.
We experience time in a linear fashion. We are born. We age. We die. Time is always moving forward. There is no way to slow it down or to reverse it. Time marches on.
God does not experience time in the same way.
God created time. This means that God is outside of time.
God does not experience time in a linear fashion like we do. Rather, all moments can occur simultaneously for God for whom one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. (2 Peter 3:8).
God knows what we call the future, but it is not the future to God. It simply is.
So yes, humans have free will. And yes, God has a plan. And neither of these truths cancel out the other.
This Sunday our question from the congregation explores Jesus’ second coming.
See you on Sunday!