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Theology from the cross pt.2

By Mike Waine

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46

Yesterday, I shared one of the more common interpretations of Jesus cry from upon the cross, which linked to Psalm 22 (you can read that post here).There are, however, others who think differently on the matter.

One such alternative reading is that this cry comes at the moment when the sin of the world is put upon Jesus’ shoulders.

According to Habakkuk 1:13;

Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing;

This leads some to argue that when Jesus bore the weight of our sin, God could no longer look upon him- resulting in Jesus to cry out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

One issue with this is that there are numerous other accounts in scripture where God looks upon sinful people. God speaks to Moses, even looks for Adam and Eve in the garden and Jesus seems to spend most of his time with ‘sinners’ – for it is they Jesus came to call (Mark 2:17)

You could still make a case, however, that the enormity of the sin Jesus took upon himself was such that even God could not look upon him.

Another possible understanding of this cry from the cross takes a more ontological approach, reflecting on the nature of Jesus’ being.

In Philippians 2:6-8 we read of Jesus:

though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,

he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

This idea of Jesus’ self-emptying is known in theology as Kenosis. It refers both to God emptying Godself to take on human form and also, in Jesus’ humanity, emptying himself of his will and becomes receptive only to the will of God.

When Jesus cries out from the cross that God has forsaken him, there are some who argue that this is a kind of second kenosis; Jesus is emptied of his divinity, separated momentarily from his Heavenly Father, so as to be able to take on our sins.

The effects of this separation are cataclysmic, as we see in the rest of the passage in Matthew 27:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

It could be, then, that in that moment, God lacked Godself and cried out in pure humanity “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

One could even go back to the relation to Psalm 22 and suggest that rather than presenting it to show its fulfilment, that Jesus empathised with David’s lament.

What do you think? Comment below with how what you understand Jesus to be saying from the cross.

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