Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Thought: Jesus Forsaken

As Jesus was being crucified, he cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why would Jesus feel forsaken by God? Many have put forth an explanation along the lines that on the cross, Jesus became the embodiment of sin and God cannot look upon sin. So it was at that moment that God turned his back on his son (thus “fracturing” the godhead for the only time in history). I don’t know if I completely buy into this explanation.

For one, as many of you might have noticed, the line that Jesus cries is an Aramaic translation of the opening line of Psalm 22. As you turn to Psalm 22, you can see in this Psalm images that bring do mind what Jesus might have experienced during his crucifixion:

Verses 7-8 – All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads; He trusts in the Lord; let the lord rescue him… (Mark 15.20, 29-32)

Verse 15b – my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth (John 19.28)

Verse 16-18 – Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all of my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Mark 15.24)

Yet if we keep reading this Psalm we notice that it does not continue this theme of abandonment, but a hope of rescue. It does not end in a theme of defeat but of triumph.

Verse 24 – For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Verse 25 – From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly…

Verse 31 – They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it (that is delivered the suffering one).

As one reads this Psalm, one cannot but recall the scene at the Cross. I do believe that the crafting of the scene of the crucifixion was done purposely alluding to Psalm 22, prompted by the words from Jesus’ mouth. Jesus, I believe, is identifying with the righteous sufferer in Psalm 22 (which is a theme in several of the psalms). He calls out to God wondering why he is suffering unjustly, asking God why he doesn’t vindicate him. But he realizes, in spite of his unjust circumstances, that God will hear his cry and will rescue him and in the end the righteous sufferer will praise God. To me, the important line in Psalm 22, is verse 24 where the righteous sufferer believes that God has not hidden his face from him but heard his cry for help. Therefore, in spite of the fact that Jesus was experiencing anguish that no human being will ever be able to fathom, God did not turn his back on his son, but heard his cry and delivered him from the wrath that he faced.


matt gallion said...

man oh man. moltmann's take on this in the crucified God is fantastic. i'm not sure i could adequately cover it, so i simply have to point you his way.

good stuff.

billy v said...

Great suggestion, Matt. I have been meaning to read that for years and haven't got around to it. Now I must.

The MAN Fan Club said...

I can only imagine the disgust Jesus might have felt with the burden of ALL man's sins for eternity sake. I do not feel he would have necessarily said that because God turned his back on him. Just the human side of Jesus as man in the flesh.