Meditations on the Cross
[During the Lenten season - those 40 days preceding Easter - our thoughts turn toward the sufferings of our Savior. I plan on writing down a few of my thoughts as they become clear in my mind. There will be no attempt at chronological order.]
When we think of His sufferings we usually have a picture in our minds of Christ on the cross, though we know that they did not begin there. And also we know that, as horrible as they were, His physical pains were only a small part of His suffering.
Among His words from the cross, perhaps the most moving - and the most troubling are these: "Eli Eli, lema sabachtani?" which the Gospel writers tell us mean, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" These words have troubled saints, scholars and theologians for 2,000 years. What does Jesus mean by these? How could the Second Person of the Trinity be "forsaken" by the First Person?
We know of course that Jesus on the cross was quoting from the 22nd Psalm, the words of David. Perhaps Jesus on the cross was simply reciting Psalms that He had memorized as a child, in order to find comfort in His pain. Perhaps; but I believe they have a greater meaning than that.
This Psalm was a lament of David's when he himself was apparently going through great suffering. The first 2 verses tell of David's agony:"My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from saving me
and from the words of my groaning?
My God, I cry by day and You do not answer;
by night, and there is no rest for me."
David continues his agonized pleas in verse after verse. We have no idea of the context from which David spoke. Was he expressing his own agony? Or was he, as many believe, speaking - 1,000 years beforehand - the very thoughts of Christ on the cross? Whether we accept these words as prophetic or not, they certainly give us a glimpse of the suffering Savior.
But, back to my original questions, how can we understand this "forsaking"? Can we actually conceive of some sort of schism between the Members of the Trinity? Just the thought of taking these words literally is frightening.
And yet there they are - words of abandonment coming from the lips of the very human God-man. And we can't explain them.
But many of us can in some small way identify with them. Some of us have suffered physical or emotional pains to - it would seem - their limits. We may even have come to the conclusion that God has forsaken us. We have felt, not the comfort of His presence, but the horrible dread of His absence.
Jesus was suffering in ways we have never - could never - experience. Is it not conceivable that He felt the absence of His Father in proportion to these sufferings? We can attempt to explain logically and theologically that in some way the Father had to turn away from the Son, that He could not even look on the sin that was borne by the Son. But the picture we're given is not given simply to touch the logical part of our brains, but to hit us in our deepest feelings, to draw us closer to the suffering Savior.
Whatever He was feeling as he uttered those words of despair, there were uttered out of His suffering for us.