Moltmann Monday: God is on Jesus' Side at the Cross

Happy Moltmann Monday! I’m writing today from a very rainy New York City and I’m in a The Way of Jesus Christ mood so here’s your quote for today:

If the surrender of Jesus on the cross is understood as a sacrifice made to appease the Father’s wrath…then the Father and the Son are not one. They are divided. They are not present together. They are opposed to one another…But in the New Testament the Father of Jesus Christ is always on Jesus’ side, never on the side of the people who crucified him; for he is Israel’s God, not Jupiter, the god of the Romans. So the giving up of the Son reveals the giving up of the Father. In the suffering of the Son, the pain of the Father finds a voice.

I really hope someday we will stop hearing Christians say terrible things about God by putting Jesus’ death on God’s shoulders. It’s terrible theology, and it makes God into an abusive, violent, wrath-filled, violence-seeking God. If that’s true, how do we know who the “good guys” are anymore?! If GOD doesn’t mind sending his son to the gallows, what’s stopping all of us from being violent, wrathful demigods? In what way can we say we’re people of LIFE if we claim our God doesn’t have a problem with the death of God’s own son? It’s preposterous.

Moltmann takes this a step further by explaining another, major problem that comes with this line of thinking: it makes God stand against Jesus. Jesus, who says he is one with the Father, is now in a standoff against God? Which one was lying before, then? And what do we make of the fact that the entire rest of the gospel witness gives us an entirely different picture, one of God dwelling in Jesus, staying with Jesus, being one with Jesus? Does God really switch teams at the eleventh hour when things go south? None of this makes any sense.

This whole section is fantastic and I’m sorry I’m just bringing you a small tidbit of it. Moltmann goes on to spell out all the answers theologians have given to answer where God is when Jesus dies on the cross. Some say God was silent, or that God allowed it, but that puts God at a distance. Others say God willed it to happen, which Moltmann says makes God a monster (and I agree). Moltmann says two things instead: God was IN Christ as he suffered, and therefore suffered alongside Christ and not away from him; and God protested against the crucifixion of Jesus by raising him from the dead.  God shows once and for all that even the worst we can do, God can turn into good by God’s works of re-creation.

God is on Jesus’ side. Even when Jesus feels forsaken by God, God is still on Jesus’ side. We know, because Easter happens. God was on the side of Jesus, even unto death, and then protested that death by Jesus’ resurrection.

God is not against Jesus. Not ever. And because of that, God is not against us, either, as we have been made brothers and sisters of the Son. And if God is for us, then who can be against us?

4 Comments

  1. Jesus’s death was willed by the lord because all people who sinned before Jesus’s crucifiction were banished to hell. Jesus knew that it was God’s will for Jesus to make that sacrifice, so that we all have salvation and could live with the almighty God. When Jesus died, he went to the purgatory and hell to preach, and save as many spirits as possible. On the third day after Christ’s death, God resurrected him and had shown the world that Christ defeated Satan.

  2. Gabriël OberholzerJanuary 5, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Thank you for this short and powerful post!

    This is one book of Moltmann which I have to read!

    I have just preached something similar last week, and received criticism. But I am thankful that there was also many positive responses.

    My exegesis of Jesus’ call “My God, My God, why have you forsaken/left me?” (Mark 15:34); May also be translated as “why have you left Me helpless/defenceless.

    So this would also be in line with your/Moltmann’s comments.

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