Friday, April 14, 2017
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46(NLT)
Jesus was a human being. He was also at that moment a brutally tortured human being. The physical beating had taken its toll, and Jesus only had moments left in the flesh. But notice that the physical torture was not the emphasis of the Gospel writer. It was not the brutality of the Roman crucifixion that was the worst thing Jesus endured. His greatest cross was the rejection of the Creator by His creation.
Scripture doesn't minimalize or trivialize Jesus’ physical suffering, but it doesn't dwell on the nails or the beating with whips and rods. It is the desertion of His friends and loved ones; it is the cross of bearing sin all alone. A number of years ago I had a week where the dentist had me in the chair for 6½ hours. A few days later another doctor performed surgery on my toe, while in-between I had to go to the eye doctor who shot a puff of air into my eyeballs to test for Glaucoma. And all this time I'm on a diet! Beloved, I know physical suffering!
But nothing is worse than being rejected by those you thought would ride into the valley of the shadow of death side by side with you. One wise man said that Jesus was rejected by man for His holiness and by God for our sin. When your physical suffering is more than you think you can stand, remember Jesus has been there, and worse...and He cares.
It says that Jesus cried with a loud voice. The original language makes it stronger. You might translate it, He screamed like an animal! This was a scream of horror. What was that about? Many Bible scholars contend that this was the exact moment that God ...laid on Him the iniquity of us all.[ii] This was the moment when Jesus became a curse for the sins of all time, of all men[iii]. Luther called it the happy exchange, meaning Jesus took our sins, and gave us His holiness.
Why the scream? In this moment Jesus first experienced what it was like to be lost and separated from the Father. He had never before experienced the consequences of sin. He was the perfect Lamb of God, and he became sin for us. This is why the cross is lonely; nobody could do that other than the only Son of God.
And this is why the cross can help you. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner of the former Communist Soviet Union. In a dark moment of his prison experience, after much torture and deprivation, he was working a section of road with a shovel, and had reached his end. He just stopped working. He knew that could mean instant death from a guard's whip or gun, but he just couldn't go on. Instantly, another prisoner saw this, and made his way towards Solzhenitsyn. When he came alongside, he took his cane and made the sign of the cross in the sand. Seeing this, Alexander looked into the smiling face of his Christian fellow sufferer and found hope to go on.[iv]
When the way seems impossible, and you can't go on, look to the cross. Jesus did; He endured in faith, and God exalted Him.
Jesus was not the first to say My God.
· Isaiah said: my God shall be my strength."[v]
· Zechariah said: my God shall come...[vi]
Jesus was also not the last to say it.
· Paul said: my God shall supply...[vii]
What’s important when life gets difficult is if YOU are ready to say MY God!
I Title image: By Propiedad de la Agrupación Local de la Pasión Viviente [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Isaiah 53.6b (KJV)
[iii] 2 Corinthians 5:21, Deuteronomy 21:23
[iv] James W. Moore, When All Else Fails...Read the Instructions (Nashville, Dimensions For Living, 1993), 35,36
[v] Isaiah 49.5b (KJV)
[vi] Philippians 4:19 (KJV)
[vii] Zechariah 14.5b (KJV)