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Forsaken Friday

March 24, 2016 at 8:55 PM

            He returns from the war, missing his left leg below the knee, burns on his right leg.  He returns home, looking forward to being with his wife again, only to discover that in his absence, another man has stepped into her life and arms.  He comes back, expecting the bank account to be full with the money he’s been sending home, only to find that it’s been drained by his wife and her new man. 

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


            She had a good job and enjoyed a nice salary.  She bought a fine home, and dressed for the success she was enjoying.  And then she got the diagnosis that no one wants to hear: breast cancer.  She endured the chemo treatments and hair loss.  She missed days from work, but tried to keep up as best she could.  Her doctor then decided she needed radiation, as well, and she missed more days from her job.  Her boss seemed understanding.  Finally, the treatments were done, the hair was growing back, she was getting caught up - and the company was bought out. She was downsized, nice way to say 'fired.'  Her medical bills had whittled away all her savings.  Now, she hunted for a job, and hoped to be able to keep her home.


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


            He had big brown eyes, with long lashes, the three-year-old child with brown skin.  He also had bruises on his back, imprints of fingers, where he had been beaten, merely for wetting the bed.  The social worker came in the middle of the day, and took him away from the only mother he loves.  She took him to a home, where a lady he had never seen, smiled at him.  But, where was his mother.  He missed her voice.  He was sorry. He didn't mean to wet the bed.  He won't do it any more, if he can just go be with his mommy.


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


            A righteous man, preaching only the kingdom of God is unjustly tried and sentenced to an insurrectionist's death.  All his adult life, he had been in constant communion with his God.  He has been obedient to his calling, to preach the kingdom.  And, now, his back is bleeding from 39 lashings.  The pain in his feet and wrists is excruciating as the nails tear at the skin.  Each time he tries to push himself up to breathe more easily, the wood slivers of the cross send searing pain through his back.  He has been faithful to his God, but where is his God now, as he hangs on a criminal's cross.


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


            This is the prayer of anyone who suffers.  This is Jesus' prayer hanging on the cross. This is the psalmist's prayer long before Jesus’ execution. The 22nd Psalm is a prayer of agony and ecstasy, of despair and hope.  Jesus cried out in need and told God exactly how he felt.  He felt alone. He felt separated from his friends and from God. The loneliness was devastating and he was not afraid to tell God how he felt.


            To some it may sound like Jesus is even blaspheming God.  But, he is not. For as Elie Wiesel says, “God's final victory... lies in [humanity's] inability to reject [God.]  You think you're cursing [God], but your curse is praise; you think you're fighting [God], but all you do is open yourself to [God]; you think you're crying out your hatred and rebellion, but all you’re doing is telling God how much you need God's support and forgiveness.”


            And, Wiesel is right - even in crying out his deep angst to God, Jesus was not rejecting God, but praying to God.  Jesus knows forsakenness and abandonment by God, just as the psalmist did so many years before him.  He is struggling to grasp the forsakenness of the one with whom he has been in full relationship with.  In struggle, there is a going back and forth between knowing one’s despair and knowing there is hope in the One who is trusted.  Jesus is forsaken, yet still knows that the one to pray to is God. This does not deny that Jesus is forsaken, given over.  It does not deny that God allowed Jesus to be given over to this gruesome death.  It does not deny the separation between the one on the cross, and the One who loves him.  There are other Biblical stories of fathers sacrificing sons, but in those stories another sacrifice was made in the son's stead. But, not this time. This time the Son is the sacrifice.  In this forsakenness, betrayal, separation and sacrifice, at the very minimum, Jesus prays, speaks to God.  Dying on the cross, forsaken by God, Jesus still prays to the one he loves.


            In desolation and abandonment, Jesus continues as he always has - he prays to God.  In abandonment and pain, in desertion and agony, Jesus dies with a psalm of forsakenness and hope upon his lips. 

Tags: Good Friday, forsaken, prayer, Jesus, crucifixion