How Can God Die?

10 Apr

Photo by Ray Hosler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo courtsey of Ray Hosler                     

Well, he can and he can’t.

This is a perpetual puzzlement for people who want to get the mystery of God shoved into a manageable little box. At Men’s Bible Study this past Monday morning the question arose again: How can God suffer and die?

I pass the matter over to St. Anastasius (d. 599).

Only by reflecting upon the meaning of the incarnation can we see how it is possible to say with perfect truth both that Christ suffered and that he was incapable of suffering, and why the Word of God, in himself incapable of suffering, came to suffer. In fact, man could not have been saved in any other way, as Christ alone knew and those to whom he revealed it.

Does that help? Let’s try to reflect on the mystery.

Light on the matter comes from the two natures possessed by the Word of God. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed to himself a human nature — a totally human nature with body and human soul. Jesus was like us in all things except sin. He had a human personality.

His human nature and divine nature were distinct. He functioned as a man. The Holy Spirit anointed him. However — and it’s a big however — the Person of the Christ was the divine Son of God. The Son owned that human nature — and whatever Jesus did in his humanity was done by a human being whose Person was and is Divine. In that way, the Christ could suffer and could not suffer.

It’s a mystery — and I’ve added little to explain a mystery which is beyond a human’s capacity to understand.

In Bible study, when confronted by such an unanswerable question, we merely point heavenward and suggest that we ask the Lord when we get there.

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