The Suicidality of Jesus

OK, a somewhat inflammatory title. We don’t usually think of Jesus as suicidal.

But He was as human as we are. It says He was tempted in all ways as we are.

A few years ago, around 1999 just after my dad died, I suffered ome very dark depression, climaxing with not one, but four serious suicide attempts.

Now I’m not saying this as a cry for sympathy. It’s part of my testimony, my story. It has helped make me who I am – but I don’t recommend the route I took. The difference between a cry for help and a serious attempt, incedentally, is how the person handles the attempt. I tried to overdose. I took the pills, lay down on my bed and waited for death to come.

Like I said, I don’t recommend this.

There was no call to friends and family. No note – everyone close to me knew what I’d been going through. No “final” goodbyes. Just me and the pills. That’s serious.

Now I’m not saying people who take the pills and then call family and friends aren’t serious – there is often a regret and recanting of the desire as life slips away. They cry out from a sudden desire to keep going in this world. And it’s hit and miss whether they manage to.

But to say Jesus was suicidal at some point in His life?

Read the Gethsemane account of His final prayer as He waits for arrest. “They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” (Mark 14:32-34 The Message)

A sinkhole of agony. He hadn’t stubbed his toe here. The agony was emotional. So bad He wanted to die.

Wait a second – Jesus said this?

 Yes. He felt the agony of depression in that moment – and the thought of death came through His mind.

He knew what was coming. We’d be depressed at the thought too. Beating. Crucifixion. Death on a cross from suffocation. It’s been described repeatedly through history as the worst method of execution. The arms out to the side, lungs collapse as the body’s own weight prevents breathing. And the Romans perfected it to a form of torture. The natural instinct is to fight for breath, so after they nailed the feet in place, they put a ledge just under the toes so the victim would lift themselves, increasing the pain and prolonging the agony. It was reserved for the worst of the worst.

But Jesus overcame the temptation one last time. I love the movie “Passion of the Christ” as the visualisation shows Satan stalking around the garden as the arrest takes place. Leering at the helpless Jesus, but oblivious to the Truth that this act secures his own defeat

So the White Witch stabs Aslan. Satan strikes Jesus. But the “deeper magic” CS Lewis talks of in the Narnia books is there and God’s Power brings real Life from Death’s clutches. Man is freed and Death itself defeated.

But before that, Jesus wrestles with how it will be achieved.

The first wave of soldiers on D-Day – most of them died. And they knew they would.

The front row of the infantry in the old warfare where troops lined up and took aim knew they were the target.

Jesus knew. Jesus felt the fear. He felt the pain. He anticipated the loss.

He wanted to die. Not on the cross, right there in the garden.

He went through it. He felt it.

It’s a strange way to find comfort, realising He actually felt what I’d felt. He was tempted as I was, although He didn’t act on it like I did.

I look back now, and I realise it was His humanity that felt that. I always knew He was God, but the realisation he was perhaps even more human than me – perfect in His humanity – and felt what I feel was a revelation. It was that lightning bolt that got me through.

Now I’ve had depression come against me again since then. Various doctors have tried various potions and pills to “help”, but they all had the same effect for me. I was left detached, hollow. Like I was watching someone else going through existing but not part of it.

So I generally stop the pills and lean on the Gospel. The humanty of Jesus is Good News. He was fully human. He lived and loved and lost and grieved and rejoiced and all the other feelings we experience.

And He did it for our sake.

It’s Christmas coming up again. It’s the perfect time to remember His humanity and not just His Divinity. 

Because it was His humanity that meant He could save us.

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