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Manna from a Man of Sorrows - a Meditation from Charles Lewis

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In Matthew 27, we are told that these are the last words that Jesus Christ uttered before he cried out with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. Jesus’ last words before dying, according to Matthew’s gospel, were words of biblical lament.

Matthew begins his gospel by calling Jesus the Son of David. It is fitting then, that as Jesus was uttering “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” on the cross, he was joining in with David who used those same exact words to begin Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.” – Psalm 22:1-2

Laments make up forty percent of the Psalms (more than any other type). David, the man who scripture calls “a man after God’s own heart” was a man very familiar with lament. Biblical lament, in many ways, is the pathway to God’s heart.

And amidst COVID19, there is a lot to lament.

Christian counselor Adam Young said this about lament on episode16 of his podcast ‘The Place We Find Ourselves’:

Lament is pouring out your feelings to God before editing your words, before making them consistent with some sort of theology. It takes more faith and trust to take our sorrow to God than it does to push down what we are actually feeling. And the surprising result of lament is a renewed sense of freedom and even joy… Lament lies at the core of what it means to engage well with God. 

Being men and women after God’s own heart requires that we lament, and we lament well. To be sure: lament is integral to the human experience and integral to a life with God. David knew this. Jesus knew this.

My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?

We can imagine the violation and humiliation Jesus felt when they spit in his face and slapped him saying “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We can imagine the betrayal and abandonment Jesus felt when one of his closest friends denied any association with him, declaring “I do not know what you mean. I do not know the man.”

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We can image the victimization Jesus felt when the crowd asked Pilate to release Jesus, an innocent man, over into their hands so that they could destroy him.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

And we can imagine the grief and hurt Jesus felt when the chief priests, scribes and elders mocked him saying “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross and we will believe him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.”

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We can imagine Jesus’ feelings of violation and humiliation because we know what it is like to be violated and humiliated. We can imagine Jesus’ feelings of betrayal and abandonment because we know what it is like to be betrayed and abandoned. We can imagine the grief and hurt Jesus felt because we know what it is to grieve and we know what it is to hurt.

If you have encountered the destruction and havoc that sin wreaks on our lives, then you too know the feeling “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When we are faced with this question, we can respond in many ways. Dr. Kelly Kapic, professor of theological studies at Covenant College produced this helpful diagram.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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David continues…

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” – Psalm 22:3-5

David begins Psalm 22 with a cry and he moves into trust. And this is the shape of most of the laments we find in scripture. This is the shape of Christian lament.

Jesus got no sleep the night before his death. He stayed awake praying. His soul was very sorrowful and troubled even to death. He was sweating droplets like blood. And he prayed:

“My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me”… A cry.

“Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” … Trust.

And as he hung from that tree crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he showed the watching world that even as he felt the farthest from his father he would ever feel, in his heart of hearts he knew that his father was holy (Psalm 22:3) and that his father was trustworthy (Psalm 22:5).

Our sinless savior endured human suffering from the moment he took his first breath being on the run from Herod to the moment he took his last breath under Pontius Pilate. But he did not stop trusting his Father.

Why? For the joy set before him. Jesus – the founder and perfecter of our faith, endured the cross for the joy set before him of bringing many sons and daughters to glory.

But in order to do so, he had to be made like us in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people - for our sins.

For the sins we commit when we lament without hope. For the sins we commit when we don’t lament and we don’t hope. For the sins we commit when we hope and don’t lament. And for every sin in between.

He did not have to take on human suffering. He did not have to endure the cross. He did not have to bear our sins so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness – healing us by his wounds. He did not have to take our place. But he chose to.

That’s a grace unlike anything else the world has ever seen. That’s a love unlike anything else the world has ever tasted. And that’s what makes this dark Friday, a good Friday.

Our savior was a man of sorrows and a faithful suffering servant to the very end. And because that is true, not only is our future hope is fixed, but our present reality is forever changed. Because we
are united to Christ, we do not suffer alone.

… But not only do we share in his suffering, but we share in resurrection. And resurrection is coming.



Charles Lewis is a pastoral resident at the Northside Church of Richmond and has been with the church since August 2019. He is currently finishing his Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary and plans to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America. In his free time he enjoys keeping up with Philadelphia sports, listening to vinyl records and hanging out at breweries and coffee shops.












 
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Comments

  1. I'm so thankful for your words and your presence, Charles!!!!

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