Monday, February 25, 2008

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).

I’ve heard this verse described two ways: 1) Jesus’ feeling of abandonment at his lowest point in perhaps his entire existence; 2) God had in fact “turned his back” on Jesus, because at that moment Jesus had “become sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) and was suffering the punishment for human beings’ sin---separation from God---which many Christians consider to be the defining aspect of Hell.

It seems that both of these are right, the first dealing more with Jesus’ human experience, the second dealing with the sotereological (theological study of salvation) nature of Jesus’ being on the cross, which, in fact, probably caused Jesus far more profound suffering than the already cruel, physical being nailed to a cross.

As for the first, Jesus’ example constantly dignifies humanity. In response to the atrocity of His being nailed to the cross, Jesus is not a stoic, trying to distance himself from suffering. He cries out in anguish at what is happening to Him. In this, God dignifies human suffering and outcry as an appropriate response to evil in the world.

As for the second aspect, Jesus’ separation from God, it makes me think of the hymn’s chorus “Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus.” It’s an unsearchable horror to consider separation from God, and when this happened to Jesus, the closest analogy I can think of is that it must have been to Him like losing his mind or soul. I’m speaking loosely, of course, but can you imagine that, God losing his soul? For anyone who has ever felt their soul in peril, there is nothing more terrifying. To consider that the Son of God underwent this is beyond comprehension, except to know it must have been the ultimate pain, terror, and horror. But, He did it, endured it, and He did so because of His love for us. He volunteered for this superlative pain so that we wouldn’t have to experience the same, because He knew that in his divinity, He could pay the penalty, endure God’s wrath, and that we could not. He did this for love for you and for me.

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