It’s common knowledge that Jesus hung on the cross and right before his death said words that translate into English as “God, why have you forsaken me?”
If you’ve ever discussed this with many Christian or followed the cross-references on a study bible, you know that this Jesus is quoting Psalm 22.
I often thought that the reference to the psalm was meant to indicate that Jesus wasn’t as forlorn as he appears. I thought that the argument went something like this: the psalm ends on an uplifting note. Jesus began the psalm as a shorthand to indicate he wasn’t as lonely or desperate as those words taken out of context might make it appear.
I was contemplating this as I read through the psalms. I decided it’s both too simplistic and too easy to simply decide that Jesus was talking in some sort of code.
Certainly he was quoting the psalm. There are portions of it which appear more true for Jesus and his circumstances than any one else, ever. For example, “But I am…scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads…Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God… They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him” The end of the psalm continues in this veign. It’s hard to imagine how you could interpret the last several verses as anything but a prophecy around Jesus’ return. (No disrespect meant to the Jewish, here.)
My point is this: Jesus certainly meant this as a reminder, a proclamation, a proof of what he was going through. And it certainly is a model for what we should do, when we feel furthest from God, so distant and abondoned. The awesome thing about scripture is that it is such a thorough expression of all elements of human experience. When we don’t have words for a certain situation, we can be guarenteed, that somewhere in scripture somebody has said just what we wish we had words for. When words escape us, we can latch on to the words of David or Solomon or Jesus or Mary to express what we otherwise couldn’t.
However, in that particular situation, there’s an upper limit to how much comfort Jesus could have recieved by leaning on scripture. Given who he was and what had to happen, there is so way around the fact that feeling unimaginably desolate, isolated and cut off had to Jesus experience.
There’s two reasons that I believe this. I don’t quite know if they are two seperate arguments or two different sides of the same coin. (Any opinions out there)
First reason: In some hard to understand and explain way, Jesus was taking on the sin of the world. If God could abide sin, he wouldn’t have needed Jesus to take it from humanity in the first place. By definition, the eternal communion between God and Jesus had to be shattered if the crucifixion were to mean anything at all.
Second reason: Jesus has moral authority over our lives because he lived as we lived. If Jesus hadn’t come down he’d certainly have a metaphysical authority. But because he was faced with the same realities we face and he did exactly what is right in every circumstance, he has a certain credibility he’d otherwise be lacking.
Throughout our lives we will experience peaks and valleys in terms of how close we feel to God. Through most of his life, Jesus, appears unimaginably close to God the Father. If Jesus never experienced seperation from God, it’d be reasonable to say “Well, it’s not really a fair comparison. Jesus was able to be act rightous because of his closeness to God.”
So, that’s how I see it. What do you think? (It’s been awfully lonely at Jeff’s Deep Thoughts lately. I’m hoping somebody tosses out a comment here.)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel. [a]
4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 “He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me [b] in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced [c] my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.
19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save [d] me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
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.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you [e] will I fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.