God forsakes God

“In the night before his arrest, Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemance. He took three disciples with him and ‘began to be greatly distressed and troubled’, writes Mark (14.33). ‘He began to be sorrowful and fearful [troubled]’ writes Matthew….Then he throws himself on the ground in horror and fear (Mark 14.35). Earlier too, he had often withdrawn at nights to the solitariness of some mountain in order to be united with his Father in the prayer of his heart. But in Gethsemane for the first time he does not want to be alone with his God. He is evidently afraid of him. That is why he seeks the protection of his friends. Then comes the prayer which in its original version sounds like a demand: ‘Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me’ (Mark 14.36) — spare me this suffering….

In fear that laid hold of him and lacerated his soul, what he suffered from was God. Abandonment by God is the ‘cup’ which does not pass from him. The appalling silence of the Father in response to the Son’s prayer in Gethsemane is more than the silence of death. Martin Buber called it the eclipse of God. It is echoed in ‘the dark night of the soul’ experienced by the mystics. The Father withdraws. God is silent. This is the experience of hell and judgment….

The Father forsook him and delivered him up to the fear of hell. The One who knew himself to be the Son is forsaken, rejected and cursed. And God is silent….

Finally, it is important to notice that it is only here on the cross that, for the first and only time in his life, the Son addresses God not as Father but as God (hebrew Eloheni, Aramaic Eloi). The prayer in Gethsemane was still addressed to ‘the Father’. But the Father did not hear the prayer. On the cross the Father forsook the Son and hid his face from him, as the sun was hidden in the deepest darkness on Golgotha….It is precisely this that is the cross in Jesus’ crucifixion; the being forsaken by the God whom he called ‘my Father’, and whose Son he knew himself to be. Here, in the relationship between the Father and the Son, a death was experienced which has been rightly described as ‘eternal death’, ‘the death of God’. Here ‘God is forsaken by ‘God’. “

from Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, pg 77-80