Wednesday

Last words speak of feeling forsaken

One of the last phrases that Jesus spoke in this life was the heart-wrenching cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Both Matthew and Mark emphasized this in their accounts of the crucifixion. In fact, according to Matthew and Mark, this is the only thing that Jesus says while hanging on the cross.

It is enough. From this we get some sense of the agony that Jesus suffered.

Matthew and Mark also emphasize the jeering crowd more than do Luke and John in their gospels. I'm not sure why this is the case, but there is a lesson for me in that.

As I read, it seemed to me that Jesus did not seem very distraught over the jeering. The nastiness of the religious leaders baiting him to come down off the cross didn't seem to faze him. What really bothered Jesus was his seeming abandonment by his Father.

Many have speculated about why God, the Father, would forsake God the Son at this critical moment. I am going to do the same, though the truth is we don't know. Some say that at that moment all of humanity's sin was heaped on Christ and God turned away because he couldn't look at sin. That seems a pretty good guess because Christ is our sacrifice for sin. He was like the scapegoat that the Hebrews used to symbolically heap their sins upon and then sent it into the wilderness.

Could it also be at that moment as Christ's body began caving in to death that his pain was so great that it felt like the ultimate separation? I don't know because I've never been that close to death but this is my guess because I can't imagine God forsaking his son. The gospel writers give no indication why Jesus cried out those words. All we know is that the Son of God suffered so immensely that the feeling that God had forsaken him was very real. Haven't you ever felt that way? I have, but I soon found out that it wasn't true. Maybe Jesus did too? After all, he was fully human as well as fully God while in the body.

My lesson in this was in Jesus' lack of reaction to the jeering of the crowd. How many times do I lose my focus in following God's will when someone says something negative or when I am asked to do something that is equally as good, though not what I wanted to do? Following God's will takes great inner strength that only the Holy Spirit can provide. It also involves death to self - our selfishness and pride.

Jesus emulates this truth in his physical death. He did not listen to the jeers around him because of his utter resolve to follow God's will and because of his dependence on God, the Father. Do I follow Christ in this way? If not, what parts of my will need to die to allow me to fully accept God's will? If I am doing well, how will I keep following God with this same resolve?

The next post should be about forgiveness. If I don't get that written by tomorrow I'll see you for the continuance of Friday's God and Art series.