During this past Lent I read through Jürgen Moltmann‘s classic work The Crucified God. I am just finishing it up, but it is both an intellectually challenging and deeply moving book. As I draw near to the end, there are some real jewels in his writing. In my mind, the entire book was worth reading simply to encounter this profound paragraph.
When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religions, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.
Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1974), 276.