Have you ever been all alone? I’m not talking about that peaceful moment when the kids have all left for school and you have the house to yourself. I’m talking about a deep feeling of abandonment; a loneliness that aches. Perhaps you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, and in the days following, you felt keenly that loss, aching for the companionship again. Maybe you’ve experienced a tragedy you felt no one could understand; that there was no one who could sympathize with you. These feelings are very real, and not to be cheapened. Yet no matter how alone, how abandoned you may have felt, you have never been truly alone, for God has always been with you. God has never abandoned anyone on this earth. Well, come to think of it, He has. God the Father abandoned one Person completely, and that was His own Son, Jesus.
Our Lenten services continue looking at the words from the cross, and last night was Jesus’ heart-rending cry, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Now, we may have gone through times in our lives that feel to us as if God is absent, but by faith we know that isn’t true. For Jesus it was true. God abandoned Him completely on that cross. The words of the hymn Jesus, in Your Dying Woes, verse 10 give me chills- “Jesus, whelmed in fears unknown, With our evil left alone…” What a terrifying picture! Do you know what that means, dear ones? Jesus literally suffered hell on that cross for you and for me. What, after all, is hell? It is complete and utter separation from God. We are left alone with our sins to which we stubbornly cling. Jesus suffered that on the cross. On His broad shoulders were laid the sins of all mankind. Jesus hung there as the world’s worst criminal: the adulterer, the murderer, the thief, the terrorist, the abuser, the liar, the cheater- and He did it alone. His own Father had abandoned Him. It’s a chilling thought. Jesus suffered hell on that cross so you need never experience it. He did it for you.
Even in the midst of Jesus’ piercing cry, there is hope, as last night’s sermon pointed out. How does He address His Father? My God. Even when God had completely abandoned Jesus, still He makes the title personal- My God. That’s what faith is. When there’s nothing left but God’s promises, faith clings to those and claims them. Whatever you are experiencing, whatever you have yet to face, claim Jesus’ promise that He will be with us to the end of the age. Call upon Him in a personal way- my Savior, my Lord, my God.
Another point to consider is this- what is Jesus quoting when He utters this question? He’s quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, the most poignant prediction in the Bible of Jesus’ suffering and death. A common practice of Jesus’ day was to quote the first verse of a psalm or other passage of Scripture, with the understanding that in doing so, one was referring to the entire passage. So read all of Psalm 22. Seriously, read it. Sure, you know the first half of it pretty well. It’s quoted in a lot of Good Friday services. But check out what happens at verse 19. Suddenly there’s a shift, and David starts talking about God’s deliverance. When God delivers him, he will “tell of [God’s] name to [his] brothers” (verse 22). “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (verse 27). “All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust” (verse 29, clear reference to heaven). “They shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (verse 31). Do you realize what this means? When Jesus quotes the first verse of Psalm 22, He is quoting the entire thing, and look how the psalm ends! It ends with hope and promise. We are those people to whom David refers in verse 31, the “people yet unborn.” Jesus knows that His abandonment by His Father will result in salvation for the entire world, that His temporal suffering would mean eternal victory for countless generations. He looked past His current situation and saw eternity. For you.
Dear one, whatever you are facing, whatever you will face in the future, know that God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He already abandoned Jesus for your sake. Look beyond your temporary suffering to eternity, where you and I will be surrounded by all the saints of all the ages, with our Lord and Savior forever.