Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Faith on the Cross

Another testimony to the faith of Jesus is his cry on the cross. Read Mark 15:33-39. According to Jürgen Moltmann ("The Crucified God," 1974), a political theologian whose "Theology of Hope" (1964) inspired some of the first-generation liberation theologians, the last words of Jesus in the passion stories of Mark and Matthew indicate that Jesus died as a Godforsaken man, a man who deeply felt abandoned by God.
The cry of Jesus on the cross (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) indicates that he died not only as somebody abandoned by his disciples and friends and rejected by the chief priests. He died also as a Godforsaken man. In his final moments, Jesus did not see any sign of the mercy of the Father. Jesus felt forsaken by God; this was probably the gravest challenge to his faith. This was his last temptation.
Jesus died “with a loud cry” (15:37). This loud cry evokes the cry of a demoniac at the moment when the demon is cast out in Mark’s gospel (1:26, 9:26). This suggests that Jesus experienced demonization while he was on the cross. Indeed he was being demonized as passers-by were insulting and mocking him. And he was also being demonized by his deep feeling of abandonment. Jesus died without receiving any relief from the terrible isolation he felt. An ancient version of the Apostle’s Creed says that Jesus descended “to hell” (ad inferna). His final moments were hellish indeed.
The death of Jesus as a Godforsaken man does not mean that he died in despair or that his faith collapsed in his final moments. Jesus died with the terrible feeling of being abandoned by God, and yet he held on in his trust without the consolation of feeling the presence of the merciful Father, who was hidden and silent. Jesus was able to hold on because his faith had grown so much throughout his life.

The faith of the crucified Jesus was already tried and tested in the temptations and challenges he encountered especially during his public ministry. Thus, after the compassionate Father vindicated and glorified him, Christ can be in solidarity with godforsaken men and women, those who are abandoned by family and friends, those who are abandoned by society, and those who feel abandoned by God.

The cry of Jesus reproduces the first line of Psalm 22, which ends with lines that praise God (vv 22-31). It is highly probable that Jesus knew the whole of Psalm 22. Thus, if he indeed cried out its first line, he most likely was affirming the message of the whole psalm. In preserving his trust despite the intense feeling of being forsaken, Jesus has shown that he is a faithful servant of God, a True Man of Great Faith and the True Believer in the Merciful Father.

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