“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
~Mark 15:34 (NIV).
We can begin to imagine the agony—both physical and spiritual—that Jesus was in, writhing on the cross, barely alive.
Flesh torn, the body broken and bloodied up—a scarcely recognisable person—was merely an outward expression of the unfathomably torn heart inside the God-man, Jesus. He was in fact temporarily set far apart from the Father as the redemptive transaction—his perfection for our sinfulness—actually took place; the most momentous point of human history.
Now, did God crucify himself?
Without opening up a theological can of worms, it is conceivable that, “yes,” such is God’s untiring love for us, he sacrificed part of himself—during that time only—to redeem, forever, an utterly broken and lost humankind. (Now, this could cause quite a divergence of instinct and thought—again, I’m not interested in that. I’m merely trying to capture how incredible the love of God is, to achieve for us this pre-fall state of perpetual grace.)
To think that God would take it upon himself to “split” himself (if that were theologically conceivable) and sacrifice that much, forsaking his very Son, so that we would have a way back... this is a most incredulous thought!
But this is what we believe. Beyond doubt there is, in this, a compelling case for God’s eternal love. Jesus endured (for us) what we will never need to endure—God forsaking him—unless we choose not for God, to reject ultimately the redemptive work of Jesus on that cross. This is a love beyond any conception of love we’re capable of, I’m sure. God never leaves, nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).
And was Jesus cast into a spiritualised hell—even a literal hell—during this time of separation from the Father? Some commentators tend to think so; that Jesus took on the torment of hell so we would not need to... this is the imagery cast into the farthest reaches of my mind, and still it’s impossible to truly comprehend.
There is indeed much left to the imagination regarding the narrative of Jesus’ Passion—neither Mark nor the other gospels go into lengthy discourse about it. And it’s perhaps a pity that it’s not more graphic—a blow-by-blow account, as we tend to gloss over the facts of Jesus’ suffering ‘after a few Easters.’ We’re numbed to think almost nothing of it, forgetting the brutality of the scourging and the rancidness of Jesus being mocked by commoners, soldiers and the like.
And when we consider the extravagantly costly lengths that God the Father and Jesus the Son went to in combining for our redemption, we ought to be forever astonished at to the greatness of the love of God for us.
For this reason, Jesus alone is worthy!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: R. Alan Cole, Mark (Revised Ed.) – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1989), p. 320-22.