Excerpts from "The Hidden Jesus" by Donald Soto


"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"—the cry must be accepted with all its implication of the abandonment Jesus feels. The words express neither a hymn of trust that God will certainly vindicate him (as is implied by later verse in the psalm), nor is it a shout of abject despair. It is what it is: an appeal, a supplication: ‘Why have you forsaken me?’

Jesus does not accept death patiently. He endures it in all its agony, screaming out to God Who remains his sustenance at the end.  But Jesus feels none of that support. He feels nothing but a complete emptying of himself. His friends and family have abandoned him, and as the sight of guards and bystanders blur before him, Jesus is, by any standard in this world, a complete failure: cut down in his prime, his word suppressed, his honor destroyed, his loved ones alienated, and at the end, subjected to an appalling
death.

He who has abandoned everything to God seems abandoned by God. Everything seems drenched in futility.

Can it be that the mockers were right all along?

Ought this man—of good intentions, perhaps, but finally hopeless, even quixotic character—to be compassionately dismissed into the pages of history?

Have not too many people already been deluded for far too long?

So much in the background and life of Jesus seems, after all, to predict the collapse of any grand hope and noble intent. The race from which he comes is of bygone grandeur, its magnificence diminished by the victories of others—and Jesus never tries to retrieve that race, or to restore its tarnished glory.

There are no real achievements to speak of, either—no work to leave as a monument, no secure body of teachings, no school of teachers to take up where he leaves off. His friends, in fact, are unremarkable people without any greatness to recommend them, and they have no very clear idea of just what he has been about. Jesus has been upsetting expectations and overturning polite religious standards since the very beginning of his ministry. In fact, he is a frighteningly simple man with not much of the world’s talent: he simply went about doing good, being accessible to others, reaching out to their needs.

But now his enemies seem vindicated, for his teaching has really taken root nowhere, and now they seem to have stamped it out forever. He ends not with a great accomplishment but on trial and then punished on windswept patch of desert. His life seems to add up to very little.

And as for his death, there is nothing here of a heroic, trailblazing martyrdom. He is not a great philosopher dying for his ideas.  Nor is he a statesman who, while climbing the ladder of success, falls under the knife of assassins. He is not a wise old man, surrounded by loving companions comforting him. He has no wife, no woman or mate or friend who stays close by during the ordeal. The only people reacting to his death seem to have spoken for everyone and they mock and challenge him. Every consolation is denied. Everything in creation is against him.

What sort of God treats people this way?

A God Who takes human suffering with great seriousness indeed—a God Who enters fully into it and, as we shall see, does not allow it the final victory. And the sort of God Who completely transforms the meaning of suffering and death …

And then, at three o’clock, even the world seems to rebel against the horror of it all. The sky darkens, a cold wind blows across the sands.

In a voice thick with torment, Jesus cries out. There is the sound of one long breath as he exhales—the deep groan of death.

And then there is chilling silence."

This is kenosis, the self-emptying of God to the last full measure of His being.


"Throughout his life, Jesus touched others both physically and emotionally because he had first been touched by their needy situations. The blind, emotionally ill, epileptic, bereaved---each came to him or was recognized by him as bearing the sign of an existence uprooted and thrown into the unfathomable mystery of suffering or death. To those within the dark encasement of pain, life seemed very paltry and meaningless indeed: it seemed to add up to very little. In each case, Jesus was deeply shaken---and, suddenly aware of how God could reach out through him, he acted. Decisively.

That is what God is like.

The loneliness, isolation, the grief of the human heart: the kindness of God reaches out to this as to nothing else.

This is what God thinks of human loss: He fills it.

This is what God finally does in the Resurrection of Jesus, the pledge that all human life is finally saved. God cancels death, condemns it. God kills death forever, nullifies it and its effect.

In Jesus, we see how utterly seriously God takes us and our suffering.

He is no mere God of plans and systems, but the lover of the human heart. Here philosophical language fails, for you and I are not moved to love the Changeless One, the omniscient Creator, the Absolute, the Unmoved Mover. No, we are warmed by the nearness of Him Who is close, Who always draws near."