… to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (Jn 15:13)
What does it mean, when strictly speaking, Jesus showed His love for us not in His death but rather in His resurrection? In other words, according to my theory, He did not “lay down” but precisely picked up His life for His friends.
First, could God have always known the counterfactual,
(1) “If the Son were to incarnate, then He would love humans and unite their nature to Himself forever even after being murdered by them”?
Well, how do we know counterfactuals like
(2) “If you tilt the TV sufficiently, then it would topple over”?
We’d have to run an experiment first or use our empirical knowledge of physics. Only then can we evaluate counterfactuals like (2) even if the contrary to fact situation never actually takes place.
But prior to the Incarnation, there was and could be no such experiment to help confirm or deny (1). It was going to be a unique and non-repeatable event.
The Holy Spirit knew (1) by simple intelligence though His middle knowledge. But the Son had the final task of determining the Path.
Hence the Son had to decide, in eternity, to incarnate actually. At that point we had a new proposition,
(3) “Jesus will choose to resurrect,”
which could be foreknown by the Son by vision though His free knowledge. (3) would be true by virtue of corresponding to an actual (rather than contrary to fact) future event.
Christ’s death was the doing of His part of the bargain between Him and the Father who created the world for His Son’s pleasure. It was fully understood that humans were the unique creatures in the whole of creation whose nature was corruptible and would in fact corrupt. The question remained, would the Son love us humans despite our wickedness? And how to find out?
It wouldn’t have worked for the Son to say casually, “I guess they are Ok, so go ahead, Father, and just create these suckers. So they are corrupt. Whatever.”
The problem was solved by the Father requiring the Son, as a condition of the Father’s gift to Him, to become incarnate and feel humanity’s evils immediately and personally. The Son would then decide, armed with this intimate de se knowledge of what sort of crazy messed-up motherfuckers we humans really are, whether to redeem or condemn the world.
His resurrection sealed and completed the project of the creation of the external to God universe: we are worth the trouble, Jesus the judge ruled.
As a result, I say that Jesus’ death was a means to His rendering His choice about us which He at the time of speaking foresaw to be to redeem. Though He did not die for His friends, He died so that He could, having accepted the Holy Spirit’s final gift of charity, rise for them.
The cost of Jesus’ death was paid ultimately but not proximately for the sake of benefits to us. It is only when we understand this dynamics and know that our interlocutors understand it, too, that we can collapse the statement “Jesus died at the Father’s will, from our maximally unjust crime; but His love endured and overcame, and He rose for us” to the otherwise unintelligible and offensive “Jesus died for us.”