We all know the scene: Jesus on the cross, dark clouds amass, his body goes into shock. Just then, he cries out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” - Father, why have you forsaken me (???at???pe?). What are we to make of this deep expression of abandonment?
Christians view Good Friday through the lens of the Easter Resurrection, but Jesus did not. He lived in real-time, a full man, who entered this chilling moment of fear that likely caused more pain than the crucifixion itself. He had been beaten, betrayed, rejected by his people and his disciples, and now his Father?
Bible readers tend to skip past the penultimate moment on the cross in the life of Jesus, needed to be completed for him to later say, “it is finished.” Jesus as the man would need to feel all the slings and arrows of the flesh to reconcile man to God.
If the moments on the cross were merely the performance with a foregone conclusion, the dramatic act of redemption would not have been real. This lack of authenticity we will explore below in the two heresies that have plagued Christian history and linger in the U.S. today.
Docetism claimed Jesus suffered, but he wasn’t a human being. He was more like a ghost or apparition in the way a God might disguise himself in a human costume. But the church rejected this notion in the Council of Nicaea when they affirmed the words in the Gospel of John, "the word made flesh." (John 1:14)
A Docetic view might also hide the fact that Jesus was capable of doubt, though doubt, fear and anxiety are so much a part of the human condition. To be fully human would be to experience all of these things, especially at that horrific moment on the cross.
Gnosticism was another heresy that divided the spirit world from that of the flesh so that Jesus could be a spiritual being but not be fully raised in the flesh. (1 Corinthians 15:12–14). Another distortion of the early church's teachings and something we hear today in some Evangelical circles.
Do spiritual experiences only occur in private and outside our bodily senses? The ancient church held a sacramental view that the symbol of the bread and wine is not only a hidden grace but also a validation of the real body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16).
In this life and the next, the spirit and body were to be transformed (Phil 3:21) as the Kingdom of God was to draweth nigh.
Gnostic Christians might add we live for future celestial heaven, but not our present dwelling place. We are to forsake this world and its rule by those of worldly status alone. The body and its senses are of lower matter and anti-divine order.
We can correct the Docetic and Gnostic heresies, but how to comprehend Jesus's doubt. The false notion that the Christian life is one without fear or pain, merely a Good Friday show, is another heresy. No sacrifice, no effort to use our talents to transform this world.
A prosperity gospel that eliminates the human unpredictability or deep fear that was present during Jesus' blood-filled via Dolorosa.
We witness this phenomenon in (so-called) Christian movies where human choice is stepped through like paint by number footprints, which lead to an altar call ending. Not the passion on the cross, or the profound betrayal Jesus felt on that lonely eve.
St Paul writes that all of the creation groans for redemption (Rom 8:22) and while the outcome of our dramatic acts might never be fully known, Christ is our example. He is the Logos, which means the living word IN THE FLESH, not a gift shop icon.
In the darkest night of the soul, Jesus pleaded with his father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) His humanity asks if there is any other way, but then accepts he might never know without a radical acceptance.
The rest is His story.