Cry of Dereliction
It’s Good Friday, a strange title for such a somber day.
It’s somber of course because this is the day we remember that Jesus was crucified.
From the cross, Jesus musters the strength to make seven last statements over the roughly six hours he hung there dying.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” — Luke 23:34
“Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” — Luke 23:43
“Woman, behold thy Son.” — John 19:26
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” — Mark 15:34
“I thirst.” — John 19:28
“It is finished.” — John 19:30
“Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” — Luke 23:46
This year, as I contemplate the horrid events that led to our hope and salvation, it’s the cry to God “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” that has me most rattled.
At first glance, we experience the raw emotions of lament, the feeling of abandonment in Jesus’ most dire hour, in his cry. We might find an uncomfortable consolation if we’ve ever felt like God has abandoned us, knowing that Jesus, God’s own son, also felt such an anguished distance from God. This can stir within us big questions of theodicy – or how we attempt to reconcile an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God in the light of evil and suffering in the world. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is trying to do from this moment of anguish on the cross.
I think Jesus is being faithful and honest about his suffering. The lament of “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” is genuine. It’s also taken from the 22nd Psalm. Many faithful Jews gathered at the cross would hear Jesus’ cry of dereliction but also begin reciting or at least recalling the rest of that Psalm.
They’d hear a statement of abiding trust, faith and hope in the midst of the suffering on display by recalling verse 3-5:
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
They’d hear references to real events Jesus faced like the mocking by his enemies (vs. 7-8); the extreme physical distress he endured (vs. 14-15); and even the casting of lots for his clothing (v. 18).
They’d also hear that while it seems like God is far off in this moment, not able to glance at the suffering of God’s own son, instead that God suffers with in him verse 24 and is there when we cry.
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
And that there is something redemptive happening in the midst of suffering in the closing lines vs 26-31:
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
The cry of dereliction that Jesus makes is real. Crucifixion hurts like hell and it can seem like God forsakes in the moment, but Jesus shows us our hope even in the midst of great suffering. In this cry is also the proof that the worst thing is never the last thing, and it might not seem like it in the moment, but soon redemption and salvation will spring forth and it will be so life-changing that everyone will turn and worship the Lord.
Maybe this anguished utterance is more than a cry of dereliction, maybe it’s also a message of hope when we need it the most.
Blessings on your remembrances and celebrations this weekend.
PS- It’s not too late to join the Good Friday Prayer Vigil from 9am-3pm in the UMCG Sanctuary; worship in-person on online tonight at 7:30pm; Hunt for Easter Eggs at 1pm Saturday in Wheeler Park; or shout Alleluia at the 6:00am Sunrise Service at Garden Club Park or the 9am service online or in-person from the UMCG Sanctuary.