“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” - 03-19-2023 - Rev. Tony Romaine
Does it not bring you almost to tears, this phrase? There is certainly no more harrowing phrase that Jesus spoke than this one. That our Savior, the absolute closest being we have ever walked with on earth to our God, indeed God incarnate, would utter such a thing.
There is a story about Martin Luther, the great Protestant theologian, that Martin Luther actually set out to study this profound cry of Jesus. He studied for a long time, in solitude, without food, and in deep meditation. And when at last he rose from his chair exasperated, he said, “God forsaking God; who can understand that?” Friends, truly, “God forsaking God” is a concept so tragic and mysterious, how can we ever hope to fully understand?
Yet, I think we paint over the pain and agony that Christ was experiencing in order to theologically explain what is going on at this moment with Christ upon the Cross, when what we really need to do is to be able to sit with Christ in this moment when He obviously felt completely abandoned and, in His own word, forsaken. To understand the depth that one must feel in the pit of their being in order to cry out to their Father, their Mother, their God, their everything and ask why they have been forsaken is difficult. And within myself I go in two directions to speak about this; one is that our Savior would partake of the Cross, and the other is why. Taking us in these directions I think will help us come closer, mind you I said closer because we will never be able to completely understand, to knowing this phrase our Messiah spoke so emphatically.
First then is that our Savior would partake of the Cross. We have already spent time throughout this sermon series talking about the sacrifice that Christ made in order to go to the Cross, but here, today, because of this phrase that is a cry from our Jesus, we need to unwrap another layer and dig deeper into Jesus going to the Cross.
What journey would you ever begin if you knew that at the end it led to death? You would not want to leave your house or the safety of wherever you may be if you knew that every step and every moment was leading up to the fulfillment of a mission which ended in death. And yet, Jesus understood that this was the culmination of his mission. Time and again, throughout the Gospels Jesus tells people to not share his miracles with others or to not spread the message quite yet, because of reasons like: his time had not yet come, or all would be revealed when it was time, or other reasons that pass our human understanding about the Messiah and what his reign would mean.
And while theologians and scholars debate about why Jesus did not want His Godliness to be shared or spread, what we come to know is that what happens upon the Cross is the reason. Jesus knew that this was the end, in fact, time and again he told the disciples that He had to die and be resurrected. To which they sluffed him off, or would get scared that their rabbi and Messiah was going to die, forgetting all the while the resurrective part of what Jesus said.
But before we go too much farther, we should take a moment to pause and understand ancient Judaic times, briefly. Let us remember that the people who were seeing these miracles, hearing Jesus teach, waiting for a Messiah, thinking of what death meant, they are all doing so through a Jewish lens. On the one hand then, they are awaiting a worldly Messiah to come and vanquish the Romans and re-place Jerusalem on the map as the center of the world, as a physical land holding presence, restoring the Israelite people as the chosen ones they were promised to be. Moreover, that the Messiah would be God, and was going to upend everything they knew, would conquer death, and do all the things Jesus did.
In this manner, this cry that Jesus lets out is a cry perhaps about these very people that Jesus came to save, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” containing just as much about why God would let these people forsake him, as why God would send Him for this purpose, for the ancient people indeed forsook Jesus.
They doubted who He was, they did not believe the miracles even when they witnessed them for themselves, they would not believe Jesus when he told them what was to happen, and they did not honor where Jesus came from or what his true purpose was, His lineage, or His divinity, and even His humanity.
But in this forsakenness, we must not judge the ancient peoples too harshly, for we too forsake Christ, and this takes us to our second point for this morning; why Jesus would go to the Cross for us and still does. The first step in confession is acknowledging that we have something to confess, and when it comes to Jesus, we all have something to confess. We have all sinned in one way or another, and no matter if your sin is major or minor, it is sin and in need of cleansing.
But we often sequester sins to the major mistakes or crimes or mishaps of our life, when the way we forsake Jesus is by submitting Him to death by a thousand papercuts. In other words, we forsake Jesus in each little thing we do that is not following his teachings, his way, his truth, his ministry. Every time we harbor hate for an enemy, we forsake Christ again. Every time we hold back the helping hand because we think people should be able to do things on their own, should help themselves, or are just abusing the system, we forsake Christ again. Each time we look with disdain at the homeless and the widow, the prostitute, and the drug addict, we forsake Christ again.
Each time we judge one another, gossip about one another, spread lies about one another, we forsake Christ again. Each time we fail to listen because we have hardened hearts or allow those with evil intentions to do our thinking and acting for us, we forsake Christ again. And on and on the list goes, which can be summed up in this line: every time we do something that is the opposite of loving our neighbor as we were loved, as Christ went to the Cross for us, as our Savior was forsaken for us, every time, EVERY TIME, we do that…we forsake Christ again and he dies once more in agony and pain a thousand times over, generation after generation, continuing to cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
So why would Jesus go to the Cross and be forsaken and do all of this for us? Because He loves us. And instead of hiding away in His carpentry shop, or never coming into the world, or never being among us; our God entered into our existence to the point of death and forsakenness upon the Cross because we are loved.
People, today is as convicting as it gets, this cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” should be an awakening to us that our God who gave everything because of a love which is beyond our understanding is Christ calling out to us and to God all at the same time. Now, I do not know about you, but this brings me to the edge of tears, because of the cost of my sins upon the Cross. But it also makes me want to try even more to counter that cry and offer my life over to Christ. To confess, repent, re-turn, re-learn, and go out in love.
Because as harrowing as this cry is, as confusing and confounding of a theological quagmire is the question of God forsaking God, as guilt-laden and shame filled we may feel, especially in this season of Lent, especially when pondering the suffering of our Savior; despite all of this, there is hope and love in this message; us! Christ did this for us…to save us…because He loves us! And our world needs us as those saved, forgiven, freed, to love as Christ loved.
So, let us this day take this cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and not waste any opportunity to hold sacred this sacrifice as we change our world from one of forsakenness into one of forgiveness, for-each-other-ness, for the love of God-ness; Christ make it so, Amen!
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