I shall write about two things that interested me in the sermon given by my Pastor at church today.
1. My Pastor mentioned in his sermon that when Jesus was crucified upon the cross, he experienced the abandonment that is due to his being separated from God that made him cry out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me” (Matthew 27:46).
Why did Jesus say these words when he was on the cross at Calvary? One answer that is given is that God is too pure to look upon evil. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore the sins of humanity in His body on the cross that the Father, spiritually, turned away. At that time, the Son may have cried out. Those who give such an make reference to the prophet Habakuk’s complaint in Habakkuk 1:13 which goes “Your[God] eyes are too pure to look on evil.”
Another answer is that the feeling of abandonment was due to Jesus’ experiencing the effect of sin which he took onto himself at the cross. A commentary from NIV Disciples Study Bible on the Matthew passage states “Part of the suffering occurred as Jesus felt forsaken by the Father. This feeling let Jesus identify totally with our feelings. This shows how deeply sin penetrated the heart of the Godhead, for the sinless Jesus suffered all the consequences of our sin. Jesus’ sense of desertion did not rise because God was in any way displeased with Jesus.”
I have read viewpoints from Christian theologians who come up with the doctrine known as the noetic effect of sin. According to this doctrine, sin negatively affects the human mind and intellect, making it difficult for the person to become a believer of the faith. The Christian apologist William Lane Craig who espoused this view wrote in an article how he felt most separated from God when he was living most sinfully.
Some website sources that I have visited explained the utterance as Jesus as simply his fulfilling the prophecy by quoting Psalms 22.
My favoured interpretation would be that God did not abandon Jesus. I don’t think God would be hampered from being able to look at a person because of sin. If it were the case, he would not have been able to interact with many of the Israelites in the past when they committed sins. I would also prefer to attribute Jesus’ feeling of abandonment as being due to his humanity instead. I don’t think that the view that feelings of abandonment by God as necessarily being due to sin conciles easily with the observation of what many believers may feel at certain point in their lives or when they are undergoing hardship. I don’t believe that all believers who feel a sense of abandonment by God are necessarily leading sinful lives. Moreover, even before Jesus was crucified on the cross, he experienced human emotions such as fear and doubt when praying at the Garden of Gethsemane when he said “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 29:39-45).
Whilst the utterance by Jesus fulfills the prophecy in Pslams, I don’t think it is necessary for symbol fulfillment of prophecy to be devoid of meaning within the circumstances in which it is fulfilled. For example, Jesus riding on the donkey into Jerusalem fulfills the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but in itself, its significance was to show Jesus as a Messiah of peace rather than of war. The riding of the donkey in Jewish custom is symbolic of a king of peace, rather than a king of war as if he should have been riding on a horse. The prophecy fulfillment of Jesus uttering the statement at the cross is in the same way connected to its context, from the emotion of angst he felt when undergoing extreme pain at the cross.
2. The pastor introduced a figure in Lutheran history that he says models the quality of Christian love – Katharina von Bora, who was Martin Luther’s wife. She administered and managed the vast holdings of the monastery, bred and sold cattles, ran a brewery in order to provide for her family and the steady stream of students who boarded with them and visitors seeking audience with Luther. Katharina operated a hospital on site, ministering to the sick alongside other nurses.
This is the first time I have heard the pastor speaking about Katharina von Bora, and I can’t remember any church sermon speaker talking about figures of church history as models. I do see in Wikipedia that Katharina is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of some Lutheran Churches in the United States on December 20, which is odd. In my own church though, we do not celebrate Calendar of Saints. And I didn’t know that Christian sects apart from the Catholics celebrated a Calendar of Saints. After all, Martin Luther opposed the Catholics for believing in the merits of saints in addition to Jesus Christ for the salvation of humanity. But I suppose protestant denominations may come up with their own Calendar of Saints without holding onto it the same significance that the Catholics have with theirs.