Summary: When things are not going well for us, we often become angry and frustrated with God. We can take comfort in knowing that even our Savior, God's own son, felt forsaken as he hung on the cross. And we can learn from his example--to cry out to God when we n
Several years ago, when Mary Ellen was much younger, not in school yet, she and Ken were getting ready one morning. Mary Ellen, as she does even today, was lagging behind, and it got to the point where Ken was waiting for her at the door. It was passed time for them to go, and Ken called out, “Mary Ellen, I’m leaving!” From her bedroom on the other side of the house, Mary Ellen responded, “Just a minute.” In the meantime, Ken realized he had left his phone in the bedroom and he headed through the living room back to the bedroom to get his phone. While he was walking through the living room, Mary Ellen was headed to the door through the dining room. When Mary Ellen arrived in the kitchen and discovered that Ken was not there, she immediately assumed that he had indeed left, and from the bedroom, Ken heard Mary Ellen cry out, “My daddy left me!” Of course he hadn’t, he was just back in the bedroom, but to Mary Ellen, it felt as if she had been abandoned. And in her anguish, Mary Ellen teared up and cried out.
Nailed upon the cross, a crown of thorns digging into his head, people shouting insults all around; Christ was in great pain and feeling all alone. So he did what we all do when we feel that way, he cried out. This morning we continue our look at Jesus’ last words before he died, and we come to this desperate plea that has become known as the “cry of dereliction,” or the “cry of abandonment.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why have you left me all alone? In that moment, as Jesus prayed these words, Jesus Christ, the very son of God and the savior of the world, felt abandoned by God. This may seem confusing to us, since our Trinitarian theology tells us that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one. And it is confusing, but as Jesus hangs upon the cross and cries out in pain and anguish, it does seem clear that he no longer felt the presence of his Father. Can you imagine? And yet, we all get that feeling of abandonment at times, don’t we?
There are some who say that Luke and John chose not to include this passage in their accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion because it seemed to diminish the sense of the majesty or dignity of Jesus. Maybe they worried that believers would be confused by the idea that Jesus felt abandoned by God. Yet, it is precisely the dignity and majesty of Jesus that Matthew and Mark likely saw in this prayer. For them, Jesus the Lord was actually experiencing that feeling of God-forsakenness that every one of us experiences at some point in our lives. He knew what it was to feel that God, his Father, had abandoned him. He knew what it was like to feel hopelessness and despair.
There can be great comfort in this story of the crucifixion for those who are walking through dark valleys. In the face of sudden accidents, financial ruin, terminal illness, and all the difficulties we experience in our life, the pain and darkness can be overwhelming at times. We may even feel as if God has abandoned us. And so, in this story of Jesus that we heard from Mark this morning, we can see that at the center of our faith is a man who was cruelly tortured and put to death at the age of thirty-three, and who, as he hung dying, felt abandoned by God. This is what makes it possible for us to pray to Jesus, because he himself has experienced anguish and darkness, and he understands our every despair.
The simple truth of the matter is that we all pray this prayer, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” at some time in our lives—when someone we dearly love dies, when we find ourselves facing a battle we never wanted to face, when we’ve been humiliated and made to feel small. There are a thousand other ways we might experience a sense of being forsaken by God—times when God is conspicuously silent and absent. In those times, we can pray to Jesus Christ, because he knows what we are experiencing and facing. He’s been there. We can pray to the one who sympathizes with us in that moment while, at the same time saying, “God didn’t forsake me, and God hasn’t forsaken you.” In his mind, I’m sure that Jesus knew that God had not left him alone, but in his heart, that’s how he felt. And I, for one, am thankful that our Lord—our King—understands fully and completely what it is like to feel forsaken by God.