Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

The most important thing that has ever happened in (or out of) the history of the world is remembered today. I've been pondering something that was said at the time.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The speaker was of course Jesus. He was already crucified; it would not be long before he died. His suffering - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual - was more than I can describe. But this is the heart of it. Forsaken by God.

How forsaken? Bear in mind, this will only make sense if you acknowledge and confess with the church that this man is also the eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Divine Trinity - a person who has always enjoyed perfect relationship with God the Father. But then also bear in mind that acknowledging and confessing this makes it impossible that he should be so forsaken. God forsaken by God?

Pondering this cry from the cross, I find myself staring into a deep abyss of profound agony and profound love. God the Holy Trinity - the one whom the church delights to call indivisible - is, in some sense at least, divided. As Christ takes on his shoulders the sins of the world (my sins!), he stands before the Father as the guilty one. He, the guilty one! And God is too pure to even look upon evil... What agony.

But what incredible love. God the Holy Trinity sees the world of humanity cut off from himself - cut off from the relationship we were made for, by our own will and act. Does he reject us? No. He takes it into himself. Jesus Christ will be the cut-off one. The alienation and mess of our rampant atheism and godlessness will be taken into the nature of God himself. What was an external relationship of judgement is taken in and made an internal one.

My Lord, what love is this?


  1. I am very uncomfortable with suggesting that at the cross, there was a rupture in the Trinity. Given that God is Trinity, three persons in eternal, loving relationship, surely God would cease to exist if there were a Trinitarian rupture.

    Can we make sense of this by saying that the person of the Son was forsaken by God according to his human nature?

  2. Well, indeed... How could one not be uncomfortable saying such a thing? Hence my vagueness... "in some sense". Not as regards his essential essence, certainly. But nevertheless, in a way that makes the cry of dereliction real.

    I think to restrict the "forsakeness" of Christ to his human nature has dangerous docetic tendencies.

    So this is a point where I say: I don't know how this could be possible, but I adore and wonder...

  3. If you're going to burn me for heresy, at least make it Nestorianism not docetism (although, of course, I don't actually think I am being Nestorian here) - I'm not denying that Christ's humanity was real.

    Note that I am saying that a person was forsaken on the cross - the Son. However, he did so according to his human nature, as a man, and not according to his divine nature. However, according to his divine nature, the life of the Trinity continues uninterruptedly. Otherwise, we're denying God's immutability.

    Does it help us understand this if we consider that Jesus as a man had finite knowledge (he did not know the time of his return) yet as God is surely omniscient? That Jesus as having a human nature thirsted, and yet as having a divine nature was able to give living water?

  4. Ah well... The nature of the immutability/impassibility of God is an interesting question, as is the relation between the human and divine natures in the one Person of Christ. However, for the time being at least, I don't feel inclined to argue the point. I'm aware that we're close - very close - to things whereof we cannot speak.

    Thus Spurgeon on the cry of dereliction:

    "There was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour: this cry came out of that darkness. Expect not to see through its every word, as though it came from on high as a beam from the unclouded Sun of Righteousness. There is light in it, bright, flashing light; but there is a centre of impenetrable gloom, where the soul is ready to faint because of the terrible darkness... Here you may look as into a vast abyss; and though you strain your eyes, and gaze till sight fails you, yet you perceive no bottom; it is measureless, unfathomable, inconceivable... We will adore where we cannot comprehend".