Apr 10, 2009

Why Have You Abandoned Me?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
     Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Since today is Good Friday, I have chosen to focus our Daily Reflection on Psalm 22:1. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus quoted this psalm as he was being crucified: “Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' 'which means 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'" (Mark 15:34).

Jesus’ citation of Psalm 22 raises all sorts of vexing questions: Did Jesus know the answer to his “why” question? In what way did the Father abandon Jesus on the cross? How can God forsake God? Though we can offer speculative answers to these questions, in the end, we must recognize that we are confronting one of the greatest mysteries in all of life. What we do know, however, is that by dying, Jesus bore the penalty for our sin. Far worse than his physical suffering was what he suffered by taking upon himself God’s righteous judgment for sin. Jesus entered into hell so that we might enter heaven. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Because Jesus experienced abandonment from the Father, you and I don’t have to know this experience. To be sure, there are times in life when we feel as if God has abandoned us. Sometimes our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. God can seem distant, or even worse. In these times, we are comforted by the fact that Jesus knows how we feel, and even worse. Moreover, when we focus on his sacrifice for us, we are reminded that no matter what we feel, God has not abandoned us. Because of what Jesus did on Good Friday, we can celebrate the truth of God’s love for us:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? . . . No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35,37-39).

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever felt abandoned by God? When? What reassured you of God’s presence and love? How does the death of Christ on the cross make a difference in your life?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord Jesus, on this day of all days I thank you for being my Savior. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. Thank you for dying so that I might live.

In particular, I thank you for entering into the “hell” of separation from the Father. Though I don’t really understand this, I believe that you experienced for my sake—and the sake of the world—that which our sin deserved. You took our place so that we might take yours.

I find it comforting, Lord, to know that you know how it feels when the Father is distant. And it is even more wonderful to realize that because of what you suffered, I will never be abandoned by the Father, no matter what I feel.

All praise be to you, Jesus, for your sacrifice. All praise be to you, for your love.

All praise be to you on this holy day. Amen.

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