As we walk through Holy Week 2020, we’re taking time to consider what it will mean to celebrate Easter while we’re unable to gather with others. To read Monday’s post, which kicked off this theme, click here.
On the cross Jesus said, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” We can be pretty sure that Jesus is pulling these words from Psalm 22, verse 2. We can’t be exactly sure why he said them. The Wikipedia page that deals with the last words spoken by Jesus on the cross records a few reasons that people have put forth over the centuries since Jesus’s death.
Some people say that in that moment Jesus was actually abandoned by God the Father, the Creator actually vacated the premises. Some people say that God was present, but couldn’t look upon the suffering that Jesus was enduring (because God’s eyes are so pure), and so turned away and Jesus was lamenting that turning away. Others say that Jesus just felt alone, and we ought to read this cry as an expression of the full humanity of Jesus. After all, isn’t that the sort of thing any of us might say, or have said, in a painful crisis?
We Avoid Pain
One of the reasons that Good Friday is so hard for us is because we prefer not to think about Jesus as suffering. We prefer to think of Jesus as kind, as powerful, as reigning over all the earth. But we do not like to think of Jesus as weak, as submissive, or as relenting to abuse from others.
And frankly, a Jesus who did not suffer would be much more convenient for us. Because it might mean that we don’t need to suffer either. The problem is that sacrificing ourselves for others is exactly the thing to which God has been calling our people since the days of Abraham. Time and again, God has asked his people to live their lives in service to others. Time and again God’s people have rejected God’s way in favor of their own.
And so, finally, God sent Jesus to be the representative of us all. God sent Jesus to live his life in service to others, that all those others might see God in Jesus and return to God.
Jesus Experienced Pain
The way of Jesus does not bypass our difficulty. It merely gives us a container for living a life full of the power that pulls us through that difficulty to new creation on the other side. And we see the way of Jesus first and foremost in the life of Jesus. In the life of Jesus we see a great man who did not shy away from his Call to be a servant of all, even to the point of death on a cross.
The call to serve, the same call that all people of God have received, required of Jesus that he submit to death on a cross. Jesus did not shy away from the difficulty or go around it. He went through it, knowing that he was doing on our behalf what we could not do ourselves. We look at the call to serve and say, “there’s no way”. Well, Jesus made a way.
Jesus’s experience on the cross was a human experience of a divine call that accomplished a divine victory for all humanity.
This is our God
That same Jesus who hung on a tree is our God. He is the one in whom we have life and breath. It is by him, and for him, and through him that we live. He was before us, is after us, and he reigns over us. Make no mistake, our God was tortured and killed by people not that different from us.
And it is pivotal to our faith that we take time to recognize and remember that this is true. That we serve a God who is not above our suffering. He is in our suffering. In fact, he will endure the suffering that we cannot, that there might be a way through our suffering to the promised glory on the other side.
So as you suffer — as you desire to say, “My God why have you forsaken me?!” — remember that Jesus has been here before. And he has not left. He is with you in the suffering, lighting the way through. Embrace the darkness a bit today, so that in the distance you might see the faint light of your King calling you forward.