From time to time, someone claims that my view of scripture is radical. I always find that a bit amusing, since I seldom dream up my conclusions on my own, but am led to them by logical deduction from things I have read.
This is one that I have tried to push away, not wanting to “open that can of worms,” and sure that it will inevitably bring forth the usual criticisms that I misunderstand the bible profoundly. It’s either the word of God or it isn’t. And I guess, that might be true.
The passage that I have never had satisfactorily explained to me is the death cry of Jesus, reported in both Matthew and Mark. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” How do we reconcile this with the man claimed to be both God and man, and moreover, the man who KNEW this through it all.
After all, it takes no genius to meander through the Gospels and find examples of Jesus explaining to others who in fact he was. Moreover, there are plenty of places where he announces his impending death and subsequent rising. But I defy anyone to explain how this statement of abandonment can be reconciled with those pronouncements.
Let me make it quite clear. I am not arguing that Jesus was not divine. One could perhaps make such a claim, many of course have, but that is not my task today, nor frankly do I believe in it myself. I do fully believe that Jesus was divine. Of course, I believe we all are, but Jesus stood alone as being fully and completely actualized in his divinity. He was united perfectly with God, at least so I believe, in his divine self.
Yet, bible aside, my issue is whether Jesus was aware, as man, of his sonship, his divine history in I AM. And I think he was not.
Of course most every religious commentator struggles to reconcile this problem. Somehow, we are told, God could not look upon such suffering of his son, so he “momentarily turned away” and Jesus felt abandoned. Or, we are told that Jesus, in the moment when the full burden of our sins fell upon him, was momentarily blocked from his divinity, and felt God was not there. Pope John Paul II put it thusly:
If Jesus felt abandoned by the Father, he knew however that that was not really so. He himself said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). Speaking of his future passion he said, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). Jesus had the clear vision of God and the certainty of his union with the Father dominant in his mind. But in the sphere bordering on the senses, and therefore more subject to the impressions, emotions and influences of the internal and external experiences of pain, Jesus’ human soul was reduced to a wasteland. He no longer felt the presence of the Father, but he underwent the tragic experience of the most complete desolation.
Here one can sketch a summary of Jesus’ psychological situation in relationship to God. The external events seemed to manifest the absence of the Father who permitted the crucifixion of his Son, though having at his disposal “legions of angels” (cf. Mt 26:53), without intervening to prevent his condemnation to death and execution. In Gethsemane Simon Peter had drawn a sword in Jesus’ defense, but was immediately blocked by Jesus himself (cf. Jn 18:10 f.). In the praetorium Pilate had repeatedly tried wily maneuvers to save him (cf. Jn 18:31, 38 f.; 19:4-6, 12-15); but the Father was silent. That silence of God weighed on the dying Jesus as the heaviest pain of all, so much so that his enemies interpreted that silence as a sign of his reprobation: “He trusted in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God'” (Mt 27:43).
In the sphere of feelings and affection this sense of the absence and abandonment by God was the most acute pain for the soul of Jesus who drew his strength and joy from union with the Father. This pain rendered all the other sufferings more intense. That lack of interior consolation was Jesus’ greatest agony.
Many people believe that we are divine beings, incarnated in human flesh to experience life as such. Our journey in life is the journey back to God, in full recognition of that. As such, we at our “incarnation” in the flesh have our divine self shielded from our past eternal connection to God. We must in a sense relearn it. That is our task, to block off the unreal ego self, and bring forth the eternal spirit self.
After all, what does it mean for Jesus to be “fully human” while “fully divine.” I would suggest that one cannot be fully either while aware of the other fully part, and that Jesus was no exception. I mean it takes not great courage I would submit to willing go to the cross, KNOWING of the glorious end–resurrection. It takes all the courage in the world to do the same, HAVING FAITH that that will happen.
What then of the biblical accounts, related in the Gospels? How do we answer the statements again and again wherein Jesus refers to himself as God’s son, the Son of Man, Messiah, I AM and tells of his coming death and resurrection?
Quite simply, I believe these to be later church additions. We know of course that the Gospels were written fully as much as 40+ years after the events described. There was much time to reflect on those events, and even more time to discern the believing community’s ongoing theological conclusions.
Moreover, we must never forget that the Gospel accounts were intended to convince. They were not and could not be history in the way that we define it today. In that time, rumor, anecdote, and third hand hearsay were more than adequate “proof.” Each writer, firmly convinced of the truth of his beliefs, set out by his writing to convince others, and in a way that would leave no doubt.
I believe it is here that we find all those statements by Jesus claiming his divinity as Son of God.
In reality, I believe that if Jesus did not know of his true divinity, but believed with all his human being that he was united to God’s will, it is much more powerful for us today. It is, because it brings Jesus close to us; he is not some so perfect being that we can only worship from afar. His courage can indeed be ours–to risk death, embrace it, all the way to the bitter end, believing and never veering away.
Jesus on the cross, discovered in those closing moments that this time he would not be saved from death, as God had saved him before. From angry Jews who were frightened of him, from the bouts with evil that miraculously he had overcome. On every occasion that we are told of, Jesus asked, and Jesus’ received his request–for healing, for food, for “signs”. God granted his ability to walk on water, turn water into wine, and the list goes on.
Could it be that Jesus expected God to save him once more in some glorious lifting of him from the cross? Before the Romans, the non-believing gawkers, and his friends, those that had not run in fear? Then do his words ring out, echoing our own in our deepest despair of being rescued from our agonies of the cross? “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani!!!”