Thursday, March 28, 2024

Easter Week - Jesus Suffered and Died on a Cross

(Jerusalem - some think this is Golgotha)


Jesus died on a cross. 

He died as he lived; viz., below the bottom rung of the honor-shame ladder. Jesus, the Supreme Somebody, was viewed as a nobody, and killed as a nothing.

"Jesus was executed in the manner regularly reserved for insurrectionists." (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 148)

God identified with the abandoned and godforsaken because Jesus the Son was executed in a manner regularly reserved for such people. The Word became expendable flesh, and suffered, and died as one of us. Tim Keller writes:

"Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment. On the cross, he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken." (Keller, The Reason for God, 29-30)

On a cross, God suffered. Can God suffer? Theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga writes:

"As the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, cooly observing the suffering of His creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Some theologians claim that God cannot suffer. I believe they are wrong. God’s capacity for suffering, I believe, is proportional to his greatness; it exceeds our capacity for suffering in the same measure as his capacity for knowledge exceeds ours. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself; and God, the Lord of the universe, was prepared to endure the suffering consequent upon his son’s humiliation and death. He was prepared to accept this suffering in order to overcome sin, and death, and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious than we can imagine." (Alvin Plantinga, "Self-Profile," in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and Peter Van Inwagen, Profiles, vol. 5, 36)

He bore our scandal.

By his stripes we are healed.


For a deep dive into the matter of the suffering of God, see Divine Impassibility: Four Views of God's Emotions and Suffering.