“The Forsaken Christ!”
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Meditation Notes (Good Friday ~ April 10, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
It is Friday morning in Jerusalem. Another hot April day. A crowd gathers on the north end of town; just outside the Damascus Gate is a place called Golgotha or Skull Hill. Yes, it is crucifixion day. The word has spread to every corner of the city. The Romans like the Skull Hill because the hill is beside a main road. That way lots of people can watch the crucifixion.
A man named Jesus of Nazareth is being crucified today. The word spreads like wildfire. The crowd is growing. Jesus’ reputation has preceded Him. No one is neutral about the man. Some strongly believed His message; many doubted Him; a few hate the man for various reasons. The crucifixion begins at nine o’clock sharp.
It appears that the man in the middle, Jesus of Nazareth, will not last long. He has already been severely beaten. In fact, it looks like four or five soldiers have taken turns working Him over. His skin hangs from His back in tatters, His face is bruised and swollen, His eyes nearly shut. Blood trickles from a dozen open wounds. He is an awful sight to behold for sure.
There are voices from all three crosses, a kind of hoarse conversation shouted above the din. Little pieces float through the air. Something that sounds like “Father, forgive them” something else about “If you are the Son of God,” then a promise of paradise. Finally, Jesus spots His mother and speaks to her.
Then it happened. “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” It happened so suddenly that no one expected it. One moment the sun was right overhead; the next moment it had disappeared. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Fourth Word on the CrossIn his book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, British Bible scholar, F.F. Bruce discusses 70 of the hard-to-understand sayings of our Lord. The last one he discusses is this statement. Of these words of Jesus, Bruce comments, “This is the hardest of all the hard statements” (p. 248). All the commentators agree with him. No statement of Jesus is more mysterious than this one. The problem is not with the words. The words (in Aramaic or Greek or English) are simple. But what do they mean?
The story is told that the Reformer Martin Luther as he was studying this text one day. For hours he sat and stared at the text. He said nothing, he wrote nothing, but silently pondering these words of Jesus. Suddenly, he stood up and exclaimed, “God forsaken by God. How can it be?” Indeed, how can it be? How can God be forsaken by God? How can the Father forsake His own Son?
What Do These Words Mean?What do these words mean? It has been suggested that this is a cry stemming from Jesus’ physical suffering. Without a doubt, those sufferings were enormous. By the time Jesus uttered these words, He had hung on the cross for six hours—exposed to the hot Palestinian sun and exposed to the mocking of the crowd. But the cry of Jesus was more than a physical suffering.
Others have suggested it was a cry of faith. The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is actually a quotation from Psalm 22:1. Although Psalm 22 begins with a description of intense suffering, it ends on a note of confident trust in God. So, the cry of Jesus is a cry of a confident heart. Well, that could be the case.
Others have seen the fourth Word of Jesus on the Cross as a cry of disillusionment. Skeptics read this as a proof that Jesus ultimately failed in His mission. He came to be the Messiah, but His mission is a failure. They are words of a defeated man.
Friends, the words of Jesus were neither due to His physical suffering nor His disillusionment. What, then, do these words mean? It was the weight of the sins of the whole world that caused Jesus to cry. It is the intensity of God’s wrath. It was the Father’s judgment on the sins of the world being borne on Christ's shoulders as He hangs on the cross. The Lamb of God was bearing in Himself the sins of the world! How
Two Important ImplicationsI take from this solemn truth two short yet profound implications. First: as followers of Jesus today, we must never minimize the horror of human sin. It was our sin that Jesus bore that day. It was our sin that caused the Father to turn away from the Son. He became a curse and we were part of the reason. We must never minimize the awful cost of our salvation.
Second: we must never forget that even in the worst situations of life, we are to cling to God with both hands as Jesus did. In 1872 the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote “In Jesus’ darkest hour with darkness all around him and within him, Jesus still clung to God with both hands. His left hand said, “My God.” His right hand said, “My God.” Eloi. Eloi. My God, my God, that’s how Jesus was clinging to God with both hands in the midst of this horrific situation. Jesus clung to God with all His might during the darkest hour of His life.
Friends, needless to say that these are difficult times faced by many right now. May have lost jobs; many are feeling isolated; millions are fighting Covid-19; the future is uncertain for many. These are incredibly hard times for sure. Yet, we are to cling to God. In the worst and darkest day of human history, Jesus still clung to God with both hands and held onto God. Jesus was forsaken that you might never be forsaken. He was abandoned that you might never be abandoned. He was deserted that you might never be deserted. He was forgotten that you might never be forgotten. Amen!
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