Lent Reflection 3: Gerhard Forde on Jesus’ cry of desolation

emil-nolde-crucifixion-1912‘Most everyone – conservative, orthodox, or liberal – seems to have trouble thinking the cry [of desolation] could be real. It seems as though having dispatched him to a humiliating, cruel, and agonizing death, we are surprised and shocked that he should find it all that bad. We just can not give up on making him our religious hero, desperately seeking in him the last spark of divinity, the courage, the faith, that will somehow see him through and thus enable us to avoid facing the end. There must be some way for him to transcend the fate to which we have dispatched him. It is as though by crucifying him we had merely provided the occasion for him to exercise his divinity, or as though as his murderers we hope that our crime was all a bad dream. For if he goes into the blackness of death forsaken even by God, what chance do we have?

But that is, of course, precisely the point. We have no chance. He comes to die for us, to enter into the blackness, the nothingness of death alone. Thus he goes the road of being human to the end. But it is even more than that. He took our place. He took our nature, being born under the law. He was made a curse for us, and he followed the course to death on the cross. In the end he cries out in an agony that Mark concentrates into the totally human question, “Why?” And there is no answer. Beyond the “Why?” there is only God. We are, once again, simply brought up against God. God is done to us. The true human can only wait on God here. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The human Jesus brings us to that end. This is his self-emptying (kenosis). Not that he divests himself temporarily of some divine prerogatives, but that he pours himself out into that last desolate cry.

Only by so pouring himself out can he finally be for us. Were he to hold something back or somehow to be protected from the stark reality of the death, he would be our lawgiver but not our Savior. His dying words to us would be some sort of admonition to stop our perfidy, shape up, and perhaps take him down from the cross before it all goes too far. His dying would be perhaps just the supreme example of how to die, and so the most strenuous law of all. That, one might say, is the theological way of taking him down from the cross. Only by truly dying does he put an end to us as old beings so that we can be made new. Only so do we come up against the one who calls into being that which is from that which is not’. – Gerhard O. Forde, Theology is for Proclamation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), 112-3.

One comment

  1. Jesus, the mocked, rejected, despised forsaken
    and crucified one Calls us to take up our cross and follow him, to have his identity as our own. And in so doing we prove to be his disciples. Philippians 1:29 “For it has been
    granted to you that for the sake of Christ
    you should not only believe in him but also
    suffer for his sake”.

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