Why have you forsaken me?

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

I said before that Lent is a jarring time of discontinuity. Well, Holy Week is even more so! Today, Holy Week begins, and by a quirk of liturgical history, we get the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem juxtaposed with Mark’s account of the Passion. It seems redundant that the church reads a Passion account on Palm Sunday and then again on Good Friday. But it does serve a purpose, I suppose. For one thing, it lets us all know in no uncertain terms what we are in for in the coming week—namely, a protracted experience of Jesus’ last days.

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Later in the week, on Thursday evening, we will gather to commemorate the Last Supper, to share a simple meal, and to prepare the church for the most difficult day of the Christian year, Good Friday. On that Friday, we will gather in the afternoon, at the hour of Jesus’ death, to hear another Evangelist’s account of the Passion of the Christ. On that day, the Church asks her children to fast as a token of their love for their Crucified Lord. I would encourage you to participate as fully as you can on both Thursday and Friday; there is no better spiritual preparation for the great feast of the Resurrection on Easter.

But I get ahead of myself! Today, let us enter into the story of Jesus’ torture and death by considering one of the so-called Seven Last Words from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words are troubling for so many reasons. But perhaps the most troubling thing is that they tell us that the Son of God experienced the abandonment of his heavenly Father. For a moment, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity experienced a sense of disconnection from the First Person of the Holy Trinity. This is momentous in its import. For in that moment of emptiness, God experienced what it feels like to be abandoned by God! In that moment of emptiness, God experienced what so many of us experience at some point in our lives, the feeling that God has left us behind. That feeling can come when we’ve prayed and prayed and still our loved one dies. It can come when we ourselves are seriously ill and begging for a bit more time on this earth. For sometimes the answer to that prayer is a stark No. Each of us, I think, will eventually confront a sense of God’s absence. Each of us, in our own little way, will someday undergo our own Passion.

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In that moment, what are we supposed to do? To whom should we turn? Well, the answer is to follow our Lord and Master Jesus Christ and to do what he did in his darkest hour. He turned to God, shared his anguish with his heavenly Father, and expressed his continuing faith. Yes, even in those words of seeming despair—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—we find a hidden declaration of continuing faith. At that moment, when Jesus could have said anything at all to express his sense of abandonment, he quotes the start of Psalm 22. As Jesus well knew, this psalm of lament ends on a note of faith, and even hope: “My soul shall live for [the Lord]; my descendants shall serve him; they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever. They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done.” Jesus, even in this last word from the Cross, expressed his trust in the God whose presence he could no longer feel. And we, who are Jesus’ descendants by faith, should we not do as our Master taught us in his last moment of earthly life? I pray that each of us, in that dark hour when we feel that surely God has forsaken us, will find the spiritual strength to proclaim, “My soul shall live for the Lord!”

© 2015 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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