When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
If even God is forsaken, what does that say about me? With these words, we have turned the corner on Good Friday. No longer is the focus on the others around him and in his life. Here, on the cross, the gaze of Jesus turns to himself. My God! It is possessive but not personal. Over and over again, Jesus says Father, but not here. My God! In this verse, he quotes the first lines of Psalm 22.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
The separation between Father and Son in the Trinity is almost finished. The bond of the Three-in-One is stretching so, so wide, that we barely imagine the possibilities of what is about to take place.
From our post-Easter posture, we may say, “Don’t worry, Jesus, it is going to all work out.” Yet that idea gives no comfort in the midst of agony. Pain and death are horrible, yet they are not triumphant.
In this space of Jesus crying out to the Father in the words of the Psalmist, there is room for us to enter into the life of God. As Paul says in the great Christ-hymn of Philippians 2, ‘Jesus humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is LORD!’
In the Jewish context in which Paul was writing, to call Jesus Lord is not simply to call him the king or ruler. In Hebrew, it is forbidden to speak the name of God aloud. In day to day life, God is referred to as ‘Hashem’ or ‘the name’. In worship, God is referred to as ‘Adonai’ or ‘Lord’. To confess Jesus as Lord is to confess Jesus as God. To understand that God loves us, saves, and calls us to something more.
In the suffering we see on the cross, most prominent in the cry, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’, we, each can both understand the question and receive the answer. Through those times when it feels like God has forsaken us, we can look to Jesus and see that that is not so. We forsake ourselves, but God the Father through Jesus the Son with the Holly Spirit redeems us.
There is hope even here on the cross, but we cannot rush to Easter just yet…