325 Days of Lent: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

In this cry of Jesus from the cross, his fourth of the final seven, we […]

JDK / 3.23.10

In this cry of Jesus from the cross, his fourth of the final seven, we come to these despairing words that, paradoxically, have given people such comfort. In Cross Shattered Christ, his meditations on these last seven words, Stanley Hauerwas explains that we, the people who live in the aftermath of Auschwitz and the shadows of the Twin Towers, are those who, “most identify with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mt.27:46) We do so because we think we have some idea about what it means to be forsaken . . . Maybe God does understand our suffering. Maybe God even suffers with us, which some seem to think is comforting given the fact it is very clear God is incapable of doing anything about our suffering.”

But, he continues:

That we can even begin to entertain such thoughts is but an indication of our refusal, indeed our inability, to believe that this One who hands on this obscure and humiliating cross is God. . . This is not a cry of general dereliction; it is the cry of the long-expected Messiah, sacrificed in our stead and thus becoming the end of sacrifice. (60-61).

>It is the profundity of these words that force us to the most abstract flights of speculation, because there really is no way appropriately to “read, mark and inwardly digest” what is being attested to here. Neither the intricacies of an Eastern Orthodox Trinitarian scheme or the complexities of a Western justice scale will save people from the implications of Jesus being abandoned on the Cross by God. No, with these words we are forced face to face with our lives, our God and our complete passivity before Him. Theological concepts like the deus abscondituis, or the idea that God works sub contrario (under the opposite), or even allusions to the cross itself are helpful to read about, but ultimately they all stop short of being able fully to articulate exactly what is going on in this—the death of God’s son for the redemption of His people.

In light of this, we do what the church has been doing for 2000 years: “we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again” We call people to faith in the one “delivered up for our transgressions and raised for our justification,”(Rm. 4:25). In these last words of Jesus, we DO find some comfort, but not in analogies to our own sense or conception of suffering and death, but in our actual suffering and death. When we fear, when we question, doubt and cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we know that we are not the first and we are not alone. “Hear these words,” writes Hauerwas, “and know that the Son of God has taken our place, become for us the abandonment our sin produces, so that we may live confident that the world has been redeemed by this cross.”