Mar. 31, 2012
Mark 15:33-34, 39
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
When we hear these words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we think of when we feel God has abandoned us. There are a thousand ways we feel God was conspicuously silent and absent. Christ’s words often become our words. As Jesus says these words, he identifies with and has compassion when we walk through dark and difficult places. Jesus knows how this feels. He experiences our loneliness.
In this prayer, we have a Savior who completely and fully understands us. Because of his love, Jesus suffers greatly for us. He knows what he is doing and marches with his eyes wide open. When he lays down his life for us, we see grace’s costliness. Jesus bucked physical pain as well as the emotional, mental and spiritual pain of being obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Did Jesus really think God abandoned him? If we answer “Yes,” we deny Jesus’ divinity. Through the Trinity, God is three persons who act as one. In this moment, the Son can’t experience the Father’s presence. How can someone fully human and fully God be abandoned by God? If this happened, Jesus’ two natures would be split. How else do we ponder the impossible proposition that on a certain Friday afternoon God died?
At the cross, the Father is with the Son. But heaven is silent. There is no answer. As Jesus cried out, I envision a big tear falling from the Father. When one person of the Trinity suffers, all three persons suffer. It was not just Jesus on the cross. It was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit who hung between good and evil, life and death, darkness and light.
At the cross, God is a suffering servant. He’s the one willing to be hung up and publically humiliated. Jesus teaches us true love. He wants us to understand the world will be changed through sacrificial love. With these words, Jesus invites us extend sacrificial love.
What have you sacrificed to show God’s love to another? What are you willing to give up to demonstrate God’s love? We say, “I should go visit that person, let them know I’m praying for them, offer to do something for them.” We justify our lack of action. “I don’t want to offend them. What if they ask me to do something? I don’t have time. I can’t do that.”
When disappointed in God, our normal response is to ignore God and turn away. On the cross, Jesus doesn’t curse God, choose not to pray and pretend God doesn’t exist. When he feels most forsaken, he prays. Even if confused and unsure about faith, speaking to God is an act of faith. Jesus also worships God. The words we spoke were familiar. He learned them as a child in the first stanza of a well-known Jewish hymn. They are the opening words to Psalm 22 and could be paraphrased, “God, where are you when I need you?” When we pray, our prayers go like, “God give me this. God, grant me this. God deliver me, preserve me, rescue me, save me.” In his dying moments, Jesus did not ask for deliverance. He asked for God’s presence, “God, where are you?”
In death, Jesus thinks of this hymn and prays these words. Read Psalm 22 and see the references to Jesus’ crucifixion, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ death. After Jesus cries out, we hear a centurion, a non-Jewish Roman guard who would not have had Jewish understanding of a promised Messiah, declare, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Who is Jesus for you?
Let us pray: I’m forever grateful to You. I’m forever grateful for the cross. I’m forever grateful to You that You came to seek and save the lost. Amen.