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My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

March 30, 2022 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Midweek Lent 2022: Jesus' Seven Last Words

Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 27:45–46

Midweek Lenten Meditation

March 30, 2022

Matthew 27:45-46

 "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Epitaphs – carved into stone, wood or metal – they offer a lasting message long after loved ones die and memories fade. Through poetry, Scripture, and prose, epitaphs seek to sum up in one last message the life and purpose of those for whom they stand. But Jesus had no epitaph. Instead, during the final hours of his life, Jesus mapped out his way of suffering with seven last words, remembered and recited throughout the ages; touchstones along his way of sorrow. The meditations for these midweek Lenten services will focus on Jesus’ seven last words as found in the Gospels. They provide glimpses into his suffering and loving final thoughts. And so we listen to them as Jesus speaks to us even now. Today we focus on the fourth of Jesus’ final words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Sometimes in life, if we are under great duress and experiencing severe suffering, we may wonder why God has forsaken us. That is what it may feel like from our perspective, but the truth is the other way around. It is we who have forsaken God. Beginning with our first parents in the Garden of Eden, we have all turned away from God and forsaken him. It is as the prophet Isaiah wrote, foretelling of Jesus’ own suffering: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6a).

The blessed truth is that God has not forsaken us, even though it may at times feel like that. Rather, God chose to forsake his only Son in his hour of greatest need when he was dying upon the cross. The Father chose to turn against his only begotten Son who became sin in our behalf. That’s right, Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. As the sinless Lamb of God (John 1:29), Jesus took upon himself all the misery, rebellion, selfishness, greed, and exploitation of our sins, bearing them in his own body on the tree of the cross. It is as Paul the apostle writes: “For our sake [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The reality is that the holiness of God cannot abide with sin. The holiness of God is about life and perfection while the sinfulness of man is about death and destruction. Because Jesus became sin for us, the Father did indeed forsake – abandon – his beloved Son there upon the cross.

In crying out as he did upon the cross, Jesus quoted back to the Father the inspired words that begin Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Originally written by David to express his own faith at a time when he was undergoing great suffering in his own life, David’s words here take on a much greater and deeper meaning with Jesus upon the cross. David may have felt, as we sometimes do in life, that God had deserted him altogether. But this is what Jesus did, in fact, experience for David, for you, and for us all. To be utterly abandoned and forsaken by God – that is hell. In the unspeakable physical agony of crucifixion, Jesus also endured the spiritual agony of aloneness; of the Father turning his back on him. And because of what Jesus did endure there upon the cross, you and I need never know what this terrible suffering is like.

In the midst of his forsakenness, note Jesus’ words: My God, my God… Though the Father has forsaken his Son there at the cross, the Son still clings to the Father. That is good for us to know, especially in times when we are tempted to heed the advice of Job’s wife: “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). There is a better way: call out to the Father even as Jesus did. Even in the midst of great misery and distress in life, let us still cry out in faith: My God, my God. That covenant relationship with the Father which began in our own Baptism reminds us that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Amen.

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