The Death of God
Jesus died the death of Israel’s messiah at the hands of the Romans, just as had many false claimants before Him. He died the death of God’s child: the cry of ‘Abba’ from the profound depths of his suffering was a yearning to feel the love once again of His dear Father. Jesus died the death of a Jew, nailed to a cross between two Jewish rebels; persecuted, tortured and murdered like millions of Jews throughout history. He died the death of a poor man and a slave, sharing the fate of those 7,000 who were pinned to crosses along the Via Appia after the Spartacus revolt. He died the death of the living: He was mortal man, and would one day have tasted death even if He had not been executed. Mortality belongs to creaturely finitude.
Lying in His tomb, he participated in the inescapable fate of all of us, and of every living thing: ‘all that lives must die, / Passing through nature to eternity.’ But death is the wages of sin, so how can the sinless Son of God die? Was he immortal, both in His divinity and His humanity? If so, in what sense was he ‘fully man’? Or is it that He came to die our death, the death of sinners, out of compassion? Was He buried vicariously for us all because He was sinless and mortal at the same time? Was His death not only ours, but His own natural death also? Did He die in solidarity with the whole of sighing creation, because this is ‘natural’, if not the inescapably tragic consequence of sin and fallenness?
The suffering, death and burial of Christ are the sufferings of this present time (Rom 8:18), which are endured by everything that lives. Creation is transient, and God seems distant, lying in a tomb. In our trauma, grief and tears it is sometimes damned hard to believe, to hope, to trust. Today is dark because God is dead, and we are abandoned, bereft, destitute, alone.