“Why do we call Good Friday ‘good?'” That question, posed by a new Christ follower several years back has stuck in my mind. How would you answer? She continued, “It wasn’t good for Jesus.” Over several months, through the study of God’s word and the witness of several Christians, she had come to the point of faith. Remarkably, as she arrived in our home, we discovered that good friends of hers had laid a solid foundation for her faith. Their prayers had been answered in a multitude of ways.
Mark’s gospel portrays the closing hours of the life of Jesus in the darkness. From noon (the sixth hour) until 3:00 p.m. (the night hour), darkness came over the whole land. Out of the darkness Christ cried the words, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Psalms had been cited by Jesus throughout his ministry. This Hebrew book of lament and praise had shaped his praying, his praise, his proclamation of truth to his followers and others. Having read through the gospels, we are not surprised to hear another quote come from his lips.
He’s quoting Psalm 22:1, the introduction of a prayer where David pours out his breaking heart to his God, to the Holy One, to the praise of Israel, to the LORD. He feels abandoned, scorned, despised, mocked, ridiculed. He is about to be ‘devoured’ and the physical agony is overwhelming. He does trust in the LORD. From birth, he was cast upon God. Surely, after all these years, God will not abandon him. God will not ignore his suffering.
The LORD hears this cry for help as He hears any such cry. But there is no ‘last minute rescue.’ The prophet reminds us “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” The LORD makes his life a guilt offering. Jesus Christ is carrying the weight of our sin, our guilt, our forsaking God in thought, word and deed as he questions God’s abandonment.
The hymnwriter nailed it, didn’t he, when he penned these words –
Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut his glories in, When Christ the mighty Maker died, for man, the creature’s sin… How shall we respond to such love? “But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe; Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do….” Amen!