Friday, 8 May 2009

Cross and Tomb: Who is Jesus?

The scandal of the cross and tomb of Jesus is the annihilation of his personal identity. Despite the contention that Jesus made no claims about himself, but preached the kingdom alone, the words and actions of the Jesus of all four Gospels are woven into his personal identity. John's Gospel is explicit int his regard; the other three at times explicit, but often more implicit or elliptical. The death of Jesus is the failure of his kingdom project; the God of love and forgiveness, the loving Father of the Son, has abandoned Jesus, or perhaps never existed int he firs place. The scandalous death of Jesus makes either possible, perhaps even likely. And with the failure of his kingdom project, so too the personal identity of Jesus disappears when his corpse is placed in the tomb. The most poignant and terrible contrast in the death of Jesus is not between his innocence and the sin of those who betrayed, deserted, scourged, mocked and killed him, but between the claims Jesus made regarding his relationship to God, and his ignoble end. The cry of dereliction from Jesus on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you deserted me?" is Jesus himself questioning his personal identity, and therefore, his whole life, including its purpose and meaning.
Let's stay with this a while longer. What if the cry of dereliction, rather than only being an expression of how he feels, expresses actual abandonment? This is difficult, and it lies at the beginning of the doctrine of the Trinity, and all the theologies of atonement that in someway try to take seriously the abandonment of Jesus for our sins. Could this be possible? Could God abandon Jesus? Is he truly at one with all the godforsaken of history? Indeed, actually abandoned, and therefore untied with those estranged from God by their own sin and wickedness? Is he not just a victim of sin, but also, in the sense above, a sinner? Yes. And the resurrection is not the cancellation of the scandal of the Father's abandonment of the Son. Knowledge of the resurrection only intensifies the question about the identity of the crucified one, and more importantly, the nature of God and God's relationship to creation.

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