Beliefnet
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" shatters all our attempts to understand God in human terms. We try, for example, to compliment God by saying that God is transcendent, but ironically our very notion of transcendence can make God a creature after our own hearts. Our idea of God, our assumption that God must possess the sovereign power to make everything turn out all right for us, at least in the long run, is revealed by Jesus' cry of abandonment to be the idolatry it is. The god we assume is but a name we use to impose some purpose on what we otherwise think is blind fate comes to ruin in these words from the cross.

These words from the cross, and the cross itself, mean that the Father is to be found when all traces of power, at least as we understand power, are absent; that the Spirit's authoritative witness is most clearly revealed when all forms of human authority are lost; and that our God's power and authority is to be found exemplified in this captive under the sentence of death. The silence of Jesus before Pilate can now be understood for what it was-namely, that Jesus refuses to accept the terms of how the world understands power and authority. In truth we stand with Pilate. We do not want to give up our understanding of God. We do not want Jesus to be abandoned because we do not want to acknowledge that the one who abandons and is abandoned is God. We seek to "explain" these words of dereliction, to save and protect God from making a fool out of being God, but our attempts to protect God reveal how frightening we find a God who refuses to save us by violence.

God is most revealed when he seems to us the most hidden. "Christ's moment of most absolute particularity-the absolute dereliction of the cross-is the moment in which the glory of God, his power to be where and when he will be, is displayed before the eyes of the world," says David Bentley Hart. Here God in Christ refuses to let our sin determine our relation to him. God's love for us means he can hate only that which alienates his creatures from the love manifest in our creation. Cyril of Jerusalem observes that by calling on his Father as "my God," Christ does so on our behalf and in our place. Hear these words, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" and know that the Son of God has taken our place, become for us the abandonment our sin produces, so that we may live confident that the world has been redeemed by this cross.

So redeemed, any account of the cross that suggests God must somehow satisfy an abstract theory of justice by sacrificing his Son on our behalf is clearly wrong. Indeed such accounts are dangerously wrong. The Father's sacrifice of the Son and the Son's willing sacrifice is God's justice. Just as there is no God who is not the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so there is no god who must be satisfied that we might be spared. We are the spared because God refuses to have us lost. "The horror, the horror" is not and cannot ever be the last word about our existence. It cannot be the last word because the Son's obedience even to death means:
Therefore God also highly
exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and
under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
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