Abandoned by God

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 9.55.57 AM Jewish millennialism (and the strong Christology which arises from it) cannot account for the picture painted by Mark’s account of the good news.

Mark 15:34  At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “EloiEloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” (GNT)

[‘Scriptures and additional materials quoted are from the Good News Bible © 1994 published by the Bible Societies/HarperCollins Publishers Ltd UK, Good News Bible© American Bible Society 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992. Used with permission.’] [Image: Kierkegaard’s Journal 1835Creative Commons CC0)

  Yeshua is asked by Pilate, “Are you a Jewish revolutionary, claiming to be their king?” Yeshua responds, “If that is what you say, it must be so.” He then refuses to defend himself against the case presented by the temple officials. “King of the Jews” is a title that is meant as a parody, mocking Yeshua’s mission. Ironically, it is an intuitively insightful parody of the parody. Yeshua is accorded the titles on which Jewish and Christian millennialism depend — namely “king” (15:2ff) and “Messiah/Christ” (14:60f) — but not in the sense that Jewish and Christian millennialism expect. Suspecting the Jewish crowd to be pro-Yeshua, Pilate offered to release their “king” to them. In the narrative world of Mark’s gospel, the crowd is given a choice, but not the choice between a good man and a bad man or between a godly man and an evil man. Instead the crowd is offered “two distinct ways of establishing the eschatological reality of God’s rule” (Wetjen, p. 228) — Barabbas (the way of political violence) or Yeshua (the Way of compassion, peace, and justice). The crowd defers to the insistence of their religious leaders and shouts for the release of Barabbas, asking that Yeshua be crucified. Mark has deftly placed his hearers (including each of us) in the position of being a member of the crowd. Will we defer to religion’s ‘long robes’ or choose the New Human Being whose mission is the construction of the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice? (Throughout history Barabbas seems to have been the popular choice, expedience wining out over justice.) Barabbas is released, while Yeshua is beaten and delivered to the execution cohort. Even as “king of the Jews” (more accurately, “the New Human Being seated at the right hand of power”), Yeshua retains his connection of horizontal relationships with other human beings. He is enthroned in nakedness, along side two who are being crucified for their opposition to Roman power. Yeshua refuses the anesthetic mixture of wine and myrrh. He seems determined to experience fully his own death, even as it means great physical suffering. The suffering was not only physical — “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”). Having been abandoned by God and deserted by his disciples, Yeshua is left to die alone on the cross. As the New Human Being, he maintains his dignity throughout the ordeal until he emits a loud cry and dies. The New Human Being must die in solidarity with the dregs of human society without being rescued by God. Jewish and Christian millennial theology (see Isaiah 53) require some sort of vicarious atonement or retributive justice to satisfy their ‘strong’ God. Yeshua, however, “is conscious of divine withdrawal.” Whether God’s wrath is understood as a forensic reality or a projection of human fear, the New Human Being experiences the absence of a strong God. He does, however, remain true to the insistent calling which he experienced in his baptism and shaped in the wilderness. A weak God who does not rescue and does not exist, but calls insistently and affirms those who respond to the call, is all that Yeshua has as he dies… except for those who, hearing the call, will respond by incarnating the New Israel / New Humanity and continue to construct the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice. Yeshua is not a strong Messiah who will rescue those who “believe in him.” Instead, he has become the genuine New Human Being, the first fruit of the New Israel / New Humanity. His mission has invalidated any human institution or system that dehumanizes, oppresses, and/or marginalizes — political systems, religious institutions, social stratifications, economic privileges. Instead, the New Humanity is formed as a horizontal community characterized by compassion, peace, and justice. Yeshua’s weak messianism is a process shared by the New Human Being with those who become the New Humanity. The nature of the anticipated horizontal community is such that this messianic process, lived into by Yeshua, is accessible to all. God’s presence, received as an inner insistent call, “will be experienced everywhere and anywhere without the necessity of [atonement theologies] or a mediating [Messiah]. God’s presence [as insistent call] will be experienced wherever the eschatological reality of the New Humanity that Jesus incarnated throughout his ministry is encountered.” (Waetjen, p. 238) It is not only Yeshua who was abandoned. The disciples experienced abandonment — Yeshua abandons them by willingly going toward his death. The early church, caught up in a strong Christology which had its origins in Jewish millennialism, apparently felt abandoned and therefore subsequently abandoned the weak messianism of the New Human Being for a strong Messiah (Christ), who saved sinners. I choose the abandonment of the weak messianism of the New Human Being. It gives life, rather than requiring me to forsake who I am in order to become what a strong Messiah demands. I choose to listen to the quiet inner calling of God who insists, rather than exist. I reject any understanding of God that dehumanizes and oppresses through violence and divine wrath — a God who, like a cosmic accountant, balances an unaudited binary ledger of good and evil. I am drawn to Yeshua who was the Way he was constructing toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice, the Truth he lived as a weak messianic process open to all of us, and the Life he incarnated in the New Human Being as the first fruit of the New Humanity into which I am called. If Yeshua, the New Human Being (son of man) was the way, the truth, and the life then I, as a part of the New Humanity, am also called to be the way, the truth, and the life — an access point to the calling of God.

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