As we approach Good Friday, I am reminded of these haunting words from Matthew 27:46: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Spoken by Jesus as he hangs on the cross, these words, through the centuries, have been understood in a number of ways by those who follow him. Here Jesus is quoting the opening verse of Psalm 22, and his use of these words has been called his cry of dereliction.
Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament. The beauty of the psalms is that, taken as a whole, they reflect the full range of human experience. Psalms of lament are a form of prayer which express to God our deepest feelings of pain, despair and even hopelessness. Psalms of lament give voice to the human complaint against a God who allows bad things to happen to good people. The human Jesus, as he suffers a slow, physically painful death on a Roman cross, is taunted by onlookers and abandoned by many of his closest friends and followers. And in the moment when he utters these words, Jesus feels abandoned, even by God.
I am not suggesting that Jesus actually was abandoned by God. I don’t believe that he was. There is plenty of scripture to suggest that God will never abandon us, not even in our darkest hour. And Jesus was well aware of that. But these words express how he felt in that moment. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Yet, even as he experiences this painful, humiliating death on a cross; and even as he feels as if God has left him and says so, notice his faith. The very fact that Jesus utters this prayer reveals a deep-seated belief or faith that God has not left him, and God will hear him. He might be hanging onto that faith by his fingertips, but he’s not letting go. My God, my God ….
If we think about it, these words, which are so often read on Good Friday, can actually offer us encouragement in our times of trial, those times when we feel alone or abandoned, times when we may feel our own faith slipping away. In these words spoken from the cross, Jesus gives us permission to question God, even as we hold onto God. My God, my God. In the end, that may be enough.
This Good Friday, we have been invited to attend Trinity Presbyterian Church’s online Good Friday Meditation at 1:00 p.m., which is approximately the time when Jesus was crucified. The service consists of various scripture readings as well as music. To participate, click the Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/5513331133. Or go to the Trinity website: www.FruitfulLife.org.
May you have a meaningful Good Friday!
Grace and peace,