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jesus died yesterday: a reflection on good friday, faithful skepticisim, and kenotic evangelism

March 26th, 2005 by isaac · No Comments

I went to a wonderful Tenebrae service last night. It is a service held on Good Friday where the church remembers Jesus’ death for us. It is a dark and solemn time. As I experienced the increasing darkness of the chapel while hearing the story of Jesus betrayal and death, I had many thoughts about Jesus’ astonishing words on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” My thoughts below are not clear, but maybe there’s something here.

“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The questioning statement assumes that God has indeed forsaken, forgotten, Jesus—the question is “why” not “have”. There is no doubting the apparent reality of the situation. But there is a daring question, “why, God?” Despite the reality of God’s absence, Jesus still addresses God. Jesus knows that God is not there, yet he still asks a question into the empty darkness.

“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—a stated question, a questioning statement. A statement that lives between dogmatic confidence, raging self-assurance and desparate resignation. An unsettling question that invites the skeptic’s moment of wonder to find its place on the cross with Jesus (Athanasius: “what is not assumed cannot be redeemed”—can we make room for the skeptic in a “christian” discourse? Is Jesus that big?—i.e. does he “assume” that much in his humanity?)

“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Desparate wonder wandering restlessly into the dark night of the soul. The creation of a space, the redemption of a moment, a summoning aporia—a question that empties and invites, that invites by emptying (the invitation of kenosis): it looks into the dark cloud of unknowing and finds something to wonder. A question that disarms fantastical constructions of one’s mastery of meaning and identity by a doubtful wondering: a question that entertains the possibility of doubt, the possibility of doubt (hope and doubt overflowing into one another to form the (im)possibility of faith).

“my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Hope that fears and tembles. A confident skepticism. A question that waits in the darkness, a pause on the cross; it calls us back to that night when we left Jesus alone: Will we stay with Jesus in the moment of darkness this time?... Will we fall asleep and find solace in dreams, religious formulae appropriately called “opiate of the masses”? Good Friday calls us to linger at the cross, to hesitate in the skeptical moment and dare to wonder—a dark moment that dares to summon, a restlessness that opens one’s self to the beyond of nature, a moment that summons with a trembling question: Is there a possiblity for the impossible? Can the question be asked without knowing the faith of the skeptic’s fear?—”Why have you forsaken me?” This shouldn’t be a question that struggles to achieve doubt. Rather, it is a question that can find no answer in one’s self but summons me to entertain the possibility of learning the reality of faith from a skeptic’s hoping doubt, the hope of discovering new problems that invite a deeper journey into the mysteries of God.

(Could this be a call towards a missionary experience that seeks a self-evangelization in an other?—a way of disarming our slavery to the illusions (“opiates”) of self-deception through vulnerable encounters with others who force us to reconsider, a call to find an other who can be an unsettling question that allows space for our possession by the Holy Spirit. Can we imagine the possibility of kenotic evangelism?)

Tags: sermons