What Jesus suffered

11-The-Agony-in-the-GardenJesus cannot suffer, as we must, the pain of the death of the false self which is the despair of misrelating to the Void (the Void simply being our absolute contingency and finitude). As Hessert suggests, Christ has no false self, no way of being in the world that derives from the ‘power-driven’ and ‘wisdom-seeking’ agendas of culture (1Cor 2). His whole life was lived in light of the truth of his God-given identity as Son (“Abba, Father”), an identity he never abandoned to go off and construct another.

Our salvation requires not that Christ experience his own existence as meaningless, interpreting his own Cross as did they who pressed his suffering upon him as evidence of his godforsakenness. That is, after all, what being crucified meant to them. And you can find Christians today who agree that if Christ does not experience himself as godforsaken, he is not ‘fully human’.

But consider, false selves are a false humanity, not a truly full humanity, and to live in light of the culture’s ‘power’ and ‘wisdom’ is to live as ‘less’ than fully human. To be fully human in our fallen world – as Christ alone was – is to live and die in light of the God-given truth of who you are, something no cross can render meaningless.

2 comments on “What Jesus suffered

  1. rwwilson147 says:

    Thanks for this, a healthy reflection on who Christ really was and is. The idea that Christ had to experience being “godforsaken” as separation from God has never quite made sense to me since it is a best an extrapolation beyond the texts. Yet he does ask “why have you forsaken me,” which I understand as a human cry, not so much an expression of “meaningless” as an exclamation consonant with the human experience of death. He experienced a kind of death which we of faith in him no longer need experience. Nevertheless, I also believe Christ lived through a kind of meaninglessness for us the depths of which we can’t quite fathom but which gives our lives a kind of meaning that can’t quite be expressed in our feeble theological words.


  2. Tom says:

    Thanks Richard. I’m a bit confused. On the one hand you agree Christ did not perceive himself despairingly as forsaken by God, and thus his ‘Cry’ does not reflect his having experienced himself as ‘meaningless’. On the other hand, you say Christ did live through a kind of meaninglessness that we cannot fathom and which can’t be expressed in theological words but which gives our life meaning.

    I don’t understand these the two claims. Looks like you deny and affirm the same thing. Feel free to try some non-theological words to describe it. I’d be interested in the ‘kind of meaninglessness’ you feel Jesus experienced for us.


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