How Much Did Jesus Know about the Cross?

This question came up in church last week:

How much did Jesus know about the cross? How much did he know about what would happen when he arrived in Jerusalem? Did he know about all the events that would take place between Palm Sunday and Easter, or did he just have a general knowledge that he was going to suffer and die?

The person asking the question felt that Jesus’ determination to walk the road to Jerusalem would mean that much more to us if we could say with confidence that Jesus knew everything that lay ahead for him.

It is an interesting question, and theologically delves into the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who became fully man without ceasing at the same time to be fully God. Jesus possessed both a divine nature and human nature in one person. So how does one reconcile Jesus’ omniscience as God with his growth and development as a human being?

The Scriptures indicate that Jesus retained his divine omniscience even in the incarnation but chose not to exercise it at certain times. So where did Jesus get his knowledge of things to come? Some of his knowledge of future events may have come through his personal study of Scripture, some by direct revelation from the Father in prayer, and some by his divine attribute of omniscience. We find examples of all three of these avenues in Jesus’ life, and it may be that various combinations of the three contributed to his knowledge at different times.

As Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem and the cross, the Scriptures tell us that he knew many details of what lay ahead for him. He knew that he must suffer and be rejected, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Luke 9:22) He knew that he would be betrayed. (Luke 9:44) He knew that he would be handed over to the Gentiles and that they would mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. (Luke 18:31)

Many of these things Jesus could have known simply from his study of the Scriptures. But Jesus also knew other details that would have required a different type of knowledge. For example, Jesus knew from the beginning who would not believe and who would betray him. (John 6:64) Jesus knew in advance that Peter would deny him three times. (John 13:38) And when the soldiers came for him in the garden, John tells us that Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him. (John 18:4) He could only have known such things by direct revelation from the Father or by drawing on his omniscience as the Son of God.

So, how much did Jesus know about the cross as he walked toward Jerusalem? Did he know every single detail that would take place that week? Possibly, but we cannot say for sure. It is all part of the mystery of the incarnation.

But if we step back further in time, before his incarnation, Jesus most certainly knew every detail that would take place leading up to the cross. Drawing fully from his omniscience in his pre-incarnate state, Jesus knew everything that he would suffer in Jerusalem. Yet he still chose to come and die for lost sinners like you and me. He is “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8) How much did Jesus know about the cross? We may rest assured that when Jesus left the glories of heaven to come to earth, he did so with full knowledge of the cross and all that it would entail.


  1. Bill says:

    If Jesus knew all that the cross would entail (including the Glory of the Resurrection) doesn’t this mean the scene in Gethsemane was a deceit? Why ask for the cup to pass if he had full knowledge of his resurrection?
    It’s a bit like spending all of your money gambling on a Lottery but knowing all the time you’ve got someone working in the ‘ inside’ who will ensure you win the jackpot

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Bill – I don’t see it as a deceit. Jesus was simply expressing his true feelings approaching the cross. Jesus knew what the cross entailed, and even though he knew the resurrection would follow, his whole being still recoiled against the cup of suffering he would experience at the cross.

  3. Bill says:

    Thanks Ray. My take is that if Jesus was fully aware of the glory of the Resurrection he would not have asked for the ‘cup to pass’. Without the Cross there could be no Resurrection.

    In similar vein, if he had full knowledge of what lay ahead why did he ask on the Cross, why God had forsaken [abandoned] him? With full knowledge he would have known exactly what God’s plan was and what his role was in that plan; he could hardly think he’d been abandoned if he knew this.

    I guess if we get through the Pearly Gates, we’ll find out then!

    Thanks again.

  4. claire potter says:

    bill…as a woman, i can fully understand the dicodomy of what jesus was feeling in the garden…every woman knows what lies ahead when she enters into the bliss of marriage..yet, when she hears the words “youre pregnant” there is a new reality to deal with. the only way that baby, the joy, can happen now, is if she goes thru a great deal of pain. she has 9 mo. to consider it. as the time approaches, fear and anxiety increase, we begin to think seriously about the risks we face in childbirth.
    so jesus, while agreeing before the world began to be the one to come down as our sacrifice, as the time approached, in his humanity, he was fearful, as an man would be. he was aware of the cross, and its hideous pain…humiliation, torture, naked on display to the world..his mother, his friends, his enemies…it is in this moment we love him so, for he is truely us, and will experience the full range of grief and pain as a human…our faith that he climbed up on that cross (figuritivly speaking, for he could have bailed) assures us that we will live with him forever…the rest we take by faith too.

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