When God Fails

The king is dead.

That’s a problem.

How do you fix a story when your main character dies? If I was writing a comic book, I’d just come up with some fantastic explanation of how the character never really died in the first place. Maybe he actually had special mutant powers that allowed him to regenerate his torn and battered flesh, eventually regaining consciousness, tossing aside the stone blocking his tomb with superhuman strength, and wreaking dreadful vengeance on his enemies.

Wolverine Jesus anyone? I’d read that.

But this isn’t a comic book.

The Messiah really died.

Just imagine the disappointment for those who had followed him, believing his promises, anticipating shalom. Where’s the Spirit? Where’s our forgiveness and healing? Where’s the new kingdom and the new creation? Where’s the peace and joy of the new community imaging God’s glory forever? We believed you! How could you leave us like this?

The king came offering shalom, and shoah killed him.

So, his followers scattered. What else could they do? How would you have reacted?

What do you do when God fails?

[You can read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel book page.]


About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on March 1, 2011, in Christology, Gospel. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. God’s failure is nothing more than our flawed imagination.

    • Unquestionably. But, you have to admit that from the perspective of those watching all their hopes die on the cross (or so they think), that’s what it had to look like.

      • Absolutely. I didn’t mean to take away from what the gospel accounts record as the obvious reality they were living in at that time. By reality of course I mean their understanding of reality. Certainly all would look lost and they would feel defeated.

  2. “But, you have to admit that from the perspective of those watching all their hopes die on the cross (or so they think), that’s what it had to look like.”

    I want to challenge you a bit on that statement. The perspective you are offering is from someone who is blaming God for the apparent “failure” rather than someone blaming themselves. There is a difference between a person who sees their hopes and dreams dashed on the cross and thinks, “God failed me”, versus a person thinking, “I was wrong about God.”

    Considering Christ’s disciples were those who had admitted they were sinners, I doubt any would have ever thought, “God failed.” Rather, in Luke 24:21, the two disciples walking on the Emmaus road said to Jesus, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” The question was not whether God had failed but, “Is Jesus really the Messiah? Or was He a lair?” Most likely, they thought, “How could I have been so wrong about him?”

    I think you build a compelling story causing the reader to question how they would react in a similar situation. You highlight an excellent point that the disciples saw their dreams and hopes crushed. However, the semantics used to frame this need to be improved.

    • I think I might push back on your push back. I completely agree no good Jew is going to say out loudthat God failed. But, I think the question lies just beneath the surface in many biblical passages. I think you can sense it particularly in the minor prophets. It’s not overt, but there’s an underlying question: Has God failed us?

      You are right, though, that the parallel, and probably louder, question would be: Was I wrong? I’m not suggesting that question wasn’t there, but I’m wanting to probe the other question that I think people wrestle with even when they won’t admit it out loud.

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