Michael Welker on the Cross, God’s Suffering, and the Supper
“The cross confronts God with the death and sin of the world in a way that calls into question not only Jesus’ life, but the divine life.
What kind of God is this, whose will for revelation runs up against limits? What kind of God is this, who while desiring the greatest intimacy with human beings ends up at the greatest distance from them? The cross calls God most profoundly, most abysmally into question. The direct confrontation with sin and death profanes the most holy God…The cross reveals a suffering of God, a powerlessness of God – not only the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, but suffering and powerlessness in the depths of the Godhead.
In this powerlessness of God, as it becomes manifest on the cross, we recognize two things. We recognize the communion of the Creator, the Holy Spirit, and the crucified Jesus over against a world that shuts God out. But we also recognize a divinity of which it is now really true that nothing human is foreign to it, a divinity that has given itself over to the abyss of human misery and horror. We recognize a God who has exposed himself not only to death, but to the abysmal distance from God which some biblical traditions call ‘hell.’…We can articulate this state of affairs in the sentence: On the cross hell becomes manifest. But it also becomes manifest that hell is not foreign to God, that God suffers hell, that God exposes the divine life to this suffering…
The celebration of the Supper takes the situation of the cross, a situation of abysmal guilt and suffering, and reveals and proclaims it as a situation that Jesus has already mercifully anticipated and overcome.”