Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Why did Jesus say God had forsaken him?

One of the very last things Jesus says from the cross is:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34)
Was Jesus feeling abandoned by God? I believe so! As he accepted guilt for all our sins and the divine wrath of the father on our behalf and as death closed in on him I can’t imagine the loneliness and feelings of abandonment Jesus felt. But did he despair or give up hope? Was all lost with Jesus’ death? Let’s look and see.

Before the eleventh century the Bible didn’t have chapters and verses. If you wanted to invoke a particular book or, more to the point, a specific psalm, how did you do it? By reciting the first line.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?. (Psalms 22:2)
Hmm, Jesus may have been invoking Psalm 22, or was it simply coincidence?

My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief. (Psalm 22:3)
Remember the story of Jesus in the garden when his sweat became as drops of blood? He cried out three times for the father to let this “cup pass by him”. Interesting parallel. It gets better.

All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: "You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you." (Psalm 22:8-9)
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the crowd jeering at Jesus to come off the cross in Mark 15:29-32? This is starting to sound very familiar.

As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.(Psalm 22:16)
What is the last thing Jesus says? “I thirst” (Jn 19:28)

they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm
Check out the soldiers’ actions in John 19:23-24. Now, that’s a bit too much for mere coincidence.

Jesus calls his listeners to think of Psalm 22 because it’s about him! He is saying “you have fulfilled this prophesy with me”. If this is true, if Jesus is truly the one spoken of in Psalm 22, then what happens to him? To find out, we must keep reading.

For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.

I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!"

All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the LORD; All the families of nations will bow low before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations. All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you. The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought. (Psalm 22:25-32)
Wow, that’s a bit of change in tone, wouldn’t you say? We start with “My God why have you forsaken me” and ended with a praise of thanksgiving speaking of the power and might of God! This is classic Jewish writing, called Todah, which begins in lament and ends in praise. If Jesus is the man in Psalm 22 and the crucifixion is the beginning (lament) then he’s telling us to hold on, the end of the Todah is coming soon. Soon it will be time to praise!

The crucifixion wasn’t the end, it was the beginning.

Want more? Keep reading! David (the writer of Psalm 22) kept on going with Psalm 23. Now that we have praised God for his strength, how should that affect the way we react to death, especially the death of Jesus?

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.

Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. (Psalm 23)
Yes, Jesus death was, and still is, a horrible reality. But it is nothing for us to despair in. Even at the very end, Jesus had full and perfect confidence in, and awareness of, what was happening. He walked in the valley of the shadow of death, but he feared no evil. Neither should we!

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