18 April 2014

Since Sunday is Easter,

the day on which Christians commemorate the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, it's a good time for this.

What was God's answer to Jesus' question, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

We can look at this in two ways. On the one hand, there was no answer. Jesus screamed that question to heaven. He screamed it audibly, and there was no audible reply. As far as the New Testament indicates, there are only three occasions on which God speaks audibly, and this was not one of them. The Son of God was screaming in agony, and the Father remained silent.

On the other hand, we could say that three days later God screamed an answer with the empty tomb, bringing forth the Holy One. I think that plaintive cry from Jesus on the cross is one of the most important and misunderstood verses in all of sacred Scripture. The explanations for it have run the gamut. Albert Schweitzer was filled with consternation and saw in it a clue that Jesus died in a spirit of bitter disillusionment, that he had spent his ministry expecting God to bring the kingdom of God dramatically through Jesus' ministry—and God did not do it. Schweitzer believed that Jesus allowed himself to be arrested and led right to Golgotha, expecting that God was going to rescue him at the last moment from the cross. Suddenly, when Jesus realized that there was not going to be a rescue, he screamed in bitter disillusionment and died a heroic death, but with an embittered spirit nevertheless. That was Schweitzer's view, but others have taken a different one.

We realize that the words Jesus cried on the cross are an exact quotation of what David penned in Psalm 22. Some people say that here in his agony Jesus fell back on his knowledge of Scripture by reciting it. I don't think Jesus was just quoting Bible verses on the cross, but it certainly would have been appropriate for him to use a statement of Scripture to express the depth of his agony.

When I was ordained, I was given the opportunity to choose my own ordination hymn. I chose "'Tis Midnight; and on Olive's Brow." There's a verse in that hymn that says that the Son of Man was not forsaken by his God. As much as I love the hymn, I hate that verse because it's not right. Jesus didn't just feel forsaken on the cross; he was totally forsaken by God while he hung on the cross because that's exactly what the penalty for sin is. As the apostle Paul elaborates, sin cuts us off from the presence and benefits of God. Christ screamed, "Why have I been forsaken?" It wasn't just a question; it was a cry of agony. Christ knew the answer. The answer was given to him the night before, in Gethsemane, when the Father made it clear that it was necessary for him to drink that cup.

~ from Now - That's a Good Question! by R.C. Sproul


JMD said...

It is hard to wrap one's mind around the suffering and death of Christ. All has been prepared and done for our eternal presence to be possible before God.

Sandy said...

Rev. Paul,

Happy Easter To You, Your Wife, and Daughters.

Rev. Paul said...

JMD, the selfless love is nearly indescribable. It's humbling at the very least...

And you, Sandy. May this Easter be blessed and joyous in your household, and in the lives off all you love.

Borepatch said...

Well, THAT is something to think on.

Rev. Paul said...

Some think of it as a minor point, BP, but it's a mark of the Father's holiness that He couldn't even look at His Son, while the curse of sin was borne by Jesus.

ProudHillbilly said...

"Jesus didn't just feel forsaken on the cross; he was totally forsaken by God while he hung on the cross because that's exactly what the penalty for sin is."

I've never thought the Passion was about an angry God beating up Jesus in lieu of beating up those of us who really deserve it. I've always viewed it as Jesus, having given Himself completely spiritually, then offered up all that was left - his body. A complete immolation. And then accepted the consequence of sin - separation from God. And the psalm would have been known by a people based in an oral tradition. It not only is a prophecy of what has happened to Him, but it finishes with a message of victory and exultation.

Rev. Paul said...

Both of those statements are true, PH: God cannot abide sin, but Jesus took it all on Himself as a voluntary act of love.