In God's eternal plan for salvation there is no other redeemer coming after Jesus and there was no other before Him. Since the eternal Word and the historical Jesus, in human terms, 'constitute' a single person, all that Jesus did, His thoughts, words, and actions were divine as well as human. However, in the reality and limitations of His humanity, like us in all but sin, Jesus was to act as God only when called by the Father to do so, in obedience to the Father's will.
Thirty times in John's Gospel Jesus identifies Himself as sent by the Father and doing always the Father's will. This characteristic of Jesus is clearly focused and witnessed to in the Gospels, as for example: In Matthew 26: 39,42. "My Father,if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I... Father, if this cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done!." ( Mark 14: 36; Luke 22: 42.) The following day Jesus went to the Cross.In John's Gospel He had spoken of this event as His " glory". (John 17 :1,2,4,5.). "Father, the hour has come! Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you, inasnuch as you have given him authority over all mankind, that He may bestow eternal life on those you gave him...I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Do you now, Father, give me glory at your side, a glory I had with you before the world began." It would be the Father's will that Jesus would die on the Cross. That act of obedient love was to be Jesus' glory. Why was this so?
We answer that question by reflecting upon the identity of Jesus as the Savior of the world and secondly in identifying the death of Jesus as the "work" of salvation referred to by Jesus in Chapter 17 of John and also referred to by Jesus on the Cross as being "finished" in His death. (John 19: 30). Everything Jesus said or did added something to the complete event of bringing salvation to the world, such as, for example, His human awareness of the Presence of God, His sympathy and love for the poor and downtrodden, His patience, kindness, generosity, and prayer. Yet the greatest and essential action of all that went into the 'work' of His being the Savior was His suffering and death. Why was this?
Salvation was foreseen and symbolized in the liberation of the Chosen People of God from their political slavery in Egypt. The Salvation won for us in Jesus is our spiritual liberation from sin. Jesus is he Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Saved, we are free from the slavery of fear and guilt.
But what is the connection between suffering, death and salvation? "Father, if this could be done in another way let it be, but thy will be done!" There was no other way available. Jesus achieved His greatest glory in the obedient LOVE of His death on the Cross. The answer regarding the connection between suffering, death, and the glory of salvation is found in a consideration of the nature of sin and love.
God is love, and the whole story of creation, the work of God, is about love. To love means to give, and the more we love the more we give. From a friendly wave of the hand or a smile, to the fifty cents given to the man begging at the entrance to the subway, to the taking of a chance to lose your life jumping into a lake to save a drowning child, to love is to give. So Jesus said of love there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone and we begin to discover the connection. ONLY IN DEATH CAN WE GIVE ALL THAT WE HAVE. Only in death can we experience UNCONDITIONAL AND TOTAL LOVE. ONLY GOD DESERVES SUCH LOVE. We call it WORSHIP.
Further clarity comes from a reflection upon the nature of sin. All actual sin, in one way or another and in one degree or another, is a conscious willful rejection or distortion of love. Sin is often brought on by cultivating an attraction to forbidden pleasure in place of love and consequently it is fitting that suffering, the opposite of pleasure, may be an effective tool in counterbalancing sin. I think I will do well to leave a considertion of the connection between Holy Thursday and Good Friday until tomorrow, even though, or perhaps because it is Easter!