March 10, 2024 . . .“Bible prayers: My God, My God” Matthew 27:45-46

March 10, 2024 . . .“Bible prayers: My God, My God” Matthew 27:45-46

March 10, 2024

“Bible prayers: My God, My God”

Matthew 27:45-46

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

“Where is God? Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”

So wrote C. S. Lewis at the loss of his wife. You can read about it in his book called A Grief Observed.

To be lonely is one thing. To be forsaken is something else. Loneliness means simply to be apart from others. The time, the date, the circumstances are such that I am here and they are there.

But forsakenness is an altogether different thing. It’s as if someone purposefully wants me to be alone, as if they want absolutely nothing to do with me. I may call. I may write. I may try to contact them. But they don’t even care to acknowledge my existence at all.

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re outside on a cold, dark, winter’s night. The clouds are thick. The moon and the stars are unable to shine. There are no lights from houses and no street lamps. There’s nothing that gives any sound or light at all.

And imagine that you’re there, not just for a minute or an hour or even a day. You’re there forever, in one long, continuous, cold, dark night. That’s what it means to be alone. That’s what it means to be forsaken.

It’s been said that Christ’s seven last words from the cross are the greatest sermon ever preached, from the greatest pulpit, from the greatest preacher.

He had already endured the suffering of the cross for three hours, a suffering far greater than any of us could bear. He’s been mocked and scourged and crucified. His head is crowned with thorns.

Darkness covered the region for three hours. And with that darkness came a deep silence that fell over all of Calvary and over the crowds that watched from a distance. Even the sounds of mockery and derision were hushed.

Jesus had already lifted up His gory head to speak three times. Now He speaks again and says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

If you want to know the deepest point of Jesus’ agony, if you want to understand the darkness of His suffering and death, consider this cry from the cross.

Your sins and mine were heaped onto His shoulders. They rose up like a wall and blotted out the Father’s face. For a time, He was one with Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, the soldiers, the taunting crowd, and the thieves. They were His brothers--flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. He was the Son of God and the Son of Man, engulfed in sin. He was lost and condemned. And so He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

In effect, He cried out to His Father in heaven, “I know why You have smitten Me. I understand why You chasten Me. But why have You forsaken Me?”

As a hymn writer once put it, this is the wormwood and the gall. It is unimaginable suffering. It is not, “Why has Peter forsaken Me?” nor is it, “Why has Judas betrayed Me?” Instead, it’s “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

And so the words of Isaiah were fulfilled: “Surely, He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. All we like sheep have gone astray: and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

It wasn’t enough that He was forsaken by His friends, forsaken by His countrymen, and forsaken by His own nation. Now He was forsaken even by His Father in heaven.

Jesus had never known anything like this. He had unending, eternal fellowship with His Father in heaven. Always and forever, He lived in the light of the glory of God. Every day He enjoyed full communion with Him and every day was like heaven on earth. Every part of Him was perfect and every part was dedicated in love to God.

But now, because of our sin, He’s banished to the darkness of desertion. And for Jesus to be without His Father’s presence, even for a moment, must have been an overwhelming calamity. He who could not endure to be without Him was blindly and cruelly forsaken.

Where was the voice from heaven that said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17)? Where is the Spirit descending as a dove? Where are the angels to attend Him and give Him strength?

But now, in the place of tenderness and compassion, there’s sin, despair, and condemnation.

How strange! After all, it was Adam and Eve who forsook God in the Garden of Eden. It was Cain who forsook Him, when he killed his brother Abel. David forsook the Lord when he took another man’s wife. Jonah forsook Him when he rejected His call into service. James and John forsook Him when they grasped for seats of honor: “Grant that we may sit at Your right and Your left when You come into Your kingdom” (Mark 10:37). And Peter forsook Him when he called down curses from heaven and denied Him saying, “I don’t even know who you’re talking about!”

God could have forsaken them. God should have forsaken them for what they did to Him. But He loved them and forgave them and granted them a chance to start all over again. And it was Jesus, the precious Lamb of God, who cried out to heaven and said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Alfred Hitchcock once told the story about a woman who was serving a life sentence in prison. Angry and resentful, she decided she would rather die than to live another year in prison.

And over the years, she became good friends with one of the prison caretakers. And among his various jobs, it was his task to bury the prisoners who died just outside the prison walls. He first tolled a bell so that everyone could hear, then he laid the body in a casket, completed the death certificate, then returned to the casket to nail it shut. Finally, he carted it out to the nearby graveyard to bury it.

And since the woman knew his routine, she devised an escape plan with the help of the caretaker. She said that the next time he tolled the bell, she would slip out of her cell and sneak into the dark room where the coffins were kept. Then she would hide inside the coffin with the body while the caretaker completed the death certificate. When he returned, he would nail the lid shut and take the coffin outside the prison. And under the cover of darkness, he would dig it up, pry it open, and set her free.

At first, when the caretaker heard of her plan, he didn’t want to do it. But he and the woman had become good friends, so he agreed.

Several weeks later, someone in the prison died. She was asleep in her cell when she heard the bell toll. So quickly, she got up, picked the lock of her cell, then quietly made her way down to the casket room.

Her heart was beating fast. She opened the door to the darkened room, found the coffin with the dead body, climbed in, then pulled the lid back in place to wait for the caretaker to come and nail it shut.

And sure enough, just a few minutes later, she heard footsteps, and the pounding of the hammer and nails. And though she didn’t like lying in that coffin beside a dead body, she knew that with the pounding of each nail, she was one step closer to freedom.

Carefully, the coffin was lifted onto a wagon, taken out to the graveyard, then lowered into the ground. She didn’t make a sound as it hit bottom with a thud. When she heard the dirt dropping onto the top, she knew it was only a matter of time until she would be free.

Finally, when all was quiet, she began to laugh. She was free--free at last! And feeling a little bit curious, she lit a match to discover the identity of the dead prisoner beside her. But to her horror, it was the dead caretaker.

Many believe they have life all figured out. They live their lives by their own rules, having everything they could ever want, whenever they want. But in the end, they find only sin and death.

Loneliness is one thing. Forsakenness is altogether different.

But Jesus was abandoned so that you might never be abandoned. He was deserted that you might never be deserted. He was forgotten that you might never be forgotten. And He was forsaken that you might never be forsaken.

Born in December of 1859, Francis Thompson went to medical school at the age of eighteen. It was expected. After all, his father was a doctor too.

But he was a frail, “delicate,” and extremely shy boy. Those who knew him said he had the strange habit of walking along the very edge of the hallway, with the coat of his collar turned up. He spent most of his free time in the library, reading history and poetry books. And though he was exceptional at writing, he was beaten for being the last boy ready for phy ed. He couldn’t care less about math. For his final exam, he came in last place.

So it wasn’t a surprise when he dropped out of medical school. His health was poor, he couldn’t find a job, and he was addicted to opium. And with no place to live and nowhere else to go, he slept with all the other homeless addicts, beside the River Thames. He applied to Oxford in hopes of earning a degree in literature, but Oxford refused to accept him. After he died of tuberculosis in November of 1907 at the age of forty-seven, his tomb bore the last line of one of his poems: “Look for me in the nurseries of Heaven.”

But the words for which he’s known best of all come from a poem called Hound of Heaven. It goes like this: “I fled Him, down the night and down the days; I fled Him down the arches of the years; I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him. Up vistaed hopes, I sped and shot down titanic glooms of chasmed fears. I fled Him and I fled Him, and I ran from those strong feet that followed, followed after.”

Jesus was abandoned so that you might never be abandoned. He was deserted that you might never be deserted. He was forgotten that you might never be forgotten. And He was forsaken that you might never be forsaken.

There are two lessons we should learn from this prayer from the cross. The first is this--never minimize the horror of human sin. While some laugh at it, and some think it doesn’t hurt anyone, that it doesn’t even matter, it was our sin that Jesus bore that day. It was our sin that caused the Father to turn His face away.

And the second lesson is found in this--never forget the cost of our salvation, for without the cross, there would be no forgiveness. Without the cross, our sin would still be heaped upon us. And without the cross, there would be no salvation.

So where’s the gospel in all of this? It’s found in that little word, “My.” “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Even in our times of deep despair, when it seems that even God has forsaken us, remember that one little word that Christ cried from the cross. For even though everyone and everything is against us, God is still our God, and nothing in all of creation can separate us from Him.

We thank You, Father, for the great gift of the cross. Grant that we may rest, confidently knowing that, by Your grace, our sins are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen