Daily Devotion - Friday, March 25, 2016
22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. - Psalm 22:1-2
There are few words in the Bible that are more poignant than the first few words of the first verses of Psalm 22. Most of us probably know these words from Matthew's account of the Passion of Jesus: About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"). (Matt 27:46)
In the throes of agony, in the worst moment of his life, at the very brink of death--what comes to Jesus' mind is a psalm, one that he had memorized as a child. And the first words of this psalm reveal the intense feelings of abandonment that Jesus felt in that moment. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Christians believe that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. We believe that Jesus was connected to God in ways that are impossible for us to understand. "I and my Father are one," he told his disciples, "If you see me, you have seen the Father." So, the question that has haunted many scholars and theologians over the years is this:
How could God experience the loss of God?
Like so many of us, Jesus felt abandoned by God in the very worst moment of his life. He felt the emptiness that comes when it feels like God has fallen silent, turned away, left us to twist in the wind to succumb to whatever evil has befallen us. And in that moment, Jesus did what all of us do: He cried out to God and asked "Why?"
The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus was like us in every way--even feeling the same temptations, and struggling through the same struggles. In Matthew 27:46, on Good Friday, at three o'clock in the afternoon---Jesus felt doubt, Jesus felt emptiness, Jesus felt as though God had abandoned him. And because he felt this, he knows everything about what it's like to be us.
I have felt the loss of God more than a few times in my life. I felt it the moment my wife was being wheeled away on a hospital bed, bleeding to death before my eyes after the birth of our youngest son. They paused rolling her just for a moment so I could say goodbye to her and tell her I loved her. It hit me then that I might never see her again.
Then everyone left, and I stood alone in the hospital room where she'd given birth to my son, whom I held in my arms. I have never felt more alone in my life. "Where are you?" I prayed silently. "Why would you let this happen?"
Somehow in the middle of my agony, I felt something stir inside of me. "He knows." As I think back to that moment, framed now in my understanding of Good Friday, I know now that I was feeling the very presence of Jesus. He was present in that moment, because he is present in all moments, but I felt his presence in a way that was more meaningful than I could have imagined.
Because at some level, even though I was filled with doubt, with fear and feelings of abandonment, I felt connected to Jesus because he had been there, too. He had felt fear, doubt, abandonment. He knew what it was like for me to stand in that hospital room, holding my just-born son with the very real possibility in front of me that I might be raising him alone.
Like me, he cried out, "Why?"
And because of this realization, faith crept back in to my soul just a bit. Then a bit more, and finally more fully than I could have dreamed.
He knows, Beloved. Jesus knows.
May you experience the fullness of the Christ who not only gave himself to set us free from sin and death, but also fully embraced our frailty and brokenness. May you sense his presence, his intimate knowledge of what it's like to be us. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.