Yesterday I recalled being bullied as a kid on several occasions. One instance stood out: some older kids tormenting me during a trip to another country. I asked one of them: "Why are you doing this?" A stunning reply came: "Because I am stronger than you. If our positions were reversed, if you were stronger than me, than you would bully me instead."
Interestingly, it never once occurred to me to resist with violence or even to fantasize about doing so. Now, of course, I'd never permit this sort of abuse. I might call the cops. Even if I were not prepared to defend myself with deadly force, at the very least I might be able to bluff. I'd get a knife, and say to the bully: "If you touch me again, I'll kill you. I'll cut your throat. You will die and turn into a corpse. The only way to avoid this is for you to leave me alone. This will be your last and only warning."
Now consider Christ. St. Thomas writes about Him that
He did endure every human suffering. ... First of all, on the part of men: for He endured something from Gentiles and from Jews; from men and from women, as is clear from the women servants who accused Peter. He suffered from the rulers, from their servants and from the mob... He suffered from friends and acquaintances, as is manifest from Judas betraying and Peter denying Him.
Secondly, the same is evident on the part of the sufferings which a man can endure. For Christ suffered from friends abandoning Him; in His reputation, from the blasphemies hurled at Him; in His honor and glory, from the mockeries and the insults heaped upon Him; in things, for He was despoiled of His garments; in His soul, from sadness, weariness, and fear; in His body, from wounds and scourgings.
Thirdly, it may be considered with regard to His bodily members. In His head He suffered from the crown of piercing thorns; in His hands and feet, from the fastening of the nails; on His face from the blows and spittle; and from the lashes over His entire body. Moreover, He suffered in all His bodily senses: in touch, by being scourged and nailed; in taste, by being given vinegar and gall to drink; in smell, by being fastened to the gibbet in a place reeking with the stench of corpses, "which is called Calvary"; in hearing, by being tormented with the cries of blasphemers and scorners; in sight, by beholding the tears of His Mother and of the disciple whom He loved. (ST, III, 46, 5)
St. Thomas then goes on to argue that "the pain of Christ's Passion was greater than all other pains."
At that point, Jesus had a choice whether to condemn us or to redeem us. And since He was perfect as both man and God, as two natures in one person, He would have been fully justified as a response to our murdering Him to blow up the Earth Star Wars-style, send every human being to hell, and spend eternity despising us and laughing at us.
And because this choice was -- had to be -- genuine, Jesus must have felt some attraction to this very course of action, namely to taking full-bodied revenge against us. But we know now that also in Him there was a drive that was stronger than this desire to take vengeance against the sinners, and that was His love and mercy for us.
God had not only a right to condemn us but every reason to do so. No impartial observer would have failed to understand and sympathize with Christ's decision to destroy the world.
The choice that Christ made, to redeem rather than condemn us -- the choice that He did not at all have to make -- and moreover keep forgiving us as we live indicates the glory of God the Son that is almost inconceivable. It suggests the goodness of God that cannot be surpassed. The decision was so difficult, and Christ was so conflicted that it took Him three days to sort things out. Only then did He "rise again in fulfillment of the Scriptures."
During this Christmas, let us meditate on the merit and glory of God who refused to condemn humanity in one swift stroke for our ultimate crime.