Forsaken Me?

I was reading at Disputations a discussion about Jesus’ words on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) The traditional explanation is that He said this in reference to, or in fulfillment to scripture, namely Psalm 22. I posted a comment on his weblog:

Has anybody ever thought that maybe Jesus was talking to humankind instead of God. Maybe He was exclaiming “My God”; and the “you” refers to us, humankind—why do we, the people, sin and forsake Him, Jesus? After all, isn’t He taking on all of the world’s sin on Himself at that moment? Why do the people continue to separate themselves from God? (Reread Psalm 22—I think maybe this point of view can fit there too.)

Tom replied:

I honestly don’t think that, in the moment before He died, Jesus swore.

I replied:

I never thought of it as a swear, but more of a cry for understanding.

My head kind of understands the reasoning outlined above, especially your comment, “One idea I can kind of tease out of what the Pope wrote is that Jesus, in His Divinity, which is the Father’s begetting, He experienced the human separation of God that is sin.”

But my heart has a hard time accepting it. Jesus was a loyal and faithful son. His faith never wavered. He knew what God had promised. So why at the end of His life would He say something that implies a moment of doubt, even under the pain of experiencing “the human separation of God that is sin”? Why would He direct His question toward God His Father?

Tom replied:

My answer is that it is to be first understood as the prayer of Psalm 22—the whole of the psalm—and that Jesus was both praying it Himself, in unparalleled human distress, and teaching His disciples what it means to be a follower of Christ and a child of God. Misunderstood to the last.

That is the surface of the mystery, but the Son’s abandonment by the Father—which the Pope doesn’t seem to teach, and Balthasar may or may not, but some fans of Balthasar definitely do—seems to me to be an entirely different thing. It’s not a deeper understanding, it’s a distinct understanding, lying beneath (so the argument would go) the surface meaning of a devout Jew praying as He died. That disconnect is one of the things I don’t like about it.

My final reply was:

Thank you Tom for your explanation. Viewing His words as the prayer from Psalm 22 as a devout dying Jew makes a lot of sense—His question was not a moment of doubt, but rather a prayer and further instruction to His disciples in His last breaths.

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