Jesus on the Hill, on the Tree

I’ve been sitting with the image and thought of Jesus being abandoned by the Father on Calvary. It’s been with me since I read a letter from a friend almost two years ago. It returned to me, this image and thought, in explicit form when someone else sent a text about the man of sorrows last fall.

I’ve turned to this basic question: when did the Father betray the Son? When did God abandon or forsake Jesus? Can we know the moment? Is it possible to distinguish that deep isolation within the Trinitarian community?

According to our sacred text, Jesus raises the question about abandonment while he’s dying. It is among the most sobering of sentences in the Bible.

It’s not sobering because he’s quoting it, though that incorporation of Israel’s material at that terminal time is meaningful. I’m struck by the soberness of it for its timing.

Jesus is dying. At the moments when he needs whatever this Father brings, Jesus is forsaken, abandoned, left. Whenever it happened, the chill of it crossed the chasm to make Jesus’s suffering special and intense.

Rather than be surrounded at death, he felt a startling aloneness. And as the song says, he would not come down. He did not call back that fatherly member by refusing to go forward. He kept at dying, even though the (literally) unthinkable had happened.

With Jesus on the hill and on the tree, it wasn’t his death that was incredible, though I respect the long evangelical stream that accents the dismal moment and its consequences. It really was that the Father had abandoned the Son.

What was unthinkable is that God could actually do that, enact that bruising isolation upon a part of God’s own self.

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