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Friday, March 13, 2015

Lenten Series: The Fourth Word of Jesus

I expand on this essay in my latest YouTube recording. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVcpN5mxrkU&feature=youtu.be

The last seven words (statements, actually) of Jesus as He hung on Golgotha's cross are among the most encouraging of all Scripture. Here is the fourth of the seven:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

As our home Bible study wound to a close, a young mother ran out to her car for a package she’d forgotten. She left her two-year-old daughter with half a dozen adults in the living room. But when Berea saw Mommy leave, her face froze with panic. She ran as quickly as her little legs could carry her and stretched in vain for the doorknob. Her screams brimmed with terror, as if she believed Mommy would never to return from the other side of the door.

One of the other women lifted Berea into her arms and tried to calm her. But it was no use. The toddler wanted no one but Mommy. And mommy was gone.

A few moments later, Berea’s mother returned. When she opened the door she lifted Berea into her arms, rubbed her back and spoke tenderly into her ear. The child quickly quieted down. Mommy had returned.

Some theorize Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have your forsaken Me?, only to draw attention to Psalm 22 in which the psalmist prophesied of Christ’s crucifixion nearly a thousand years before it happened (see Psalm 22:11-18). When Jesus quoted the first line of the psalm, they say, it was to demonstrate His fulfillment of that prophecy.

I think there was another, far more significant reason.

St. Luke tells us that while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, imploring the Father to take the cup He was about to drink from His hands, Jesus’ sweat ‘became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44) . Bloody sweat is a rare, but well-documented physical phenomena called (hematidrosis) known to occur in some people suffering extreme stress. Jesus dreaded the crucifixion not only because of the physical pain He’d suffer, but He also knew what it would mean when He took upon Himself the sins of the world. The prophet Isaiah is only one of many Old Testament prophets to speak about the results of sin: But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear (Isaiah 59:2).  

Separation.  From God.  

The Holy Spirit says this about Jesus: “Though He was in the form of God . . . . [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Phil 2:6-7).  And so, being fully God and fully Man, Jesus experienced all the frailty of humanity – hunger, thirst, pain, cold, heat . . . . And now He was about to experience in our place what He in His deity could never experience.

Separation from the Father.

St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: [The Father] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  And in his letter to the church at Galatia, he added: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).

As the most holy Lord Jesus hung between heaven and earth, He did not simply take our collective sins on Himself, but actually became Sin – became Sin – so you and I who are ‘in Christ,” you and I who trust Him as our redeemer, our reconciler, our savior, could become the very righteousness of God. 

Oh! Think of it!

Jesus, who knew the incomprehensible intimacy of the Triune Godhead, for the first time in eternity was separated from His Father. For that one moment – oh, but for the eternal God that moment must have seemed forever – for that one moment the Father turned away from Him who had become Sin.

No wonder He cried out, My God, My God. Why have You forsaken Me!, for in some mysterious and inexplicable way known only to the Holy Trinity, Jesus was suddenly on the other side of the door. Suddenly separated from His Father. Suddenly alone.

That is the fathomless horror our sin caused Him. And that is also the divinely designed evidence of the matchless love the Son has for the sinner –you and me – so we would not have to live forever separated from God, on the other side of the eternal door.

Thank you. Oh! Thank you, Jesus.

Father of mercy, like the prodigal son I return to You and say: "I have sinned against you and am no longer worthy to be called your son." Christ Jesus, Savior of the world, I pray with the repentant thief to whom You promised Paradise: "Lord, remember me in Your kingdom." Holy Spirit, fountain of love, I call on You with trust: "Purify my heart, and help me to walk as a child of light. —Author unknown

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