My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
(Psalm 22:1, NLT)
These words were made famous by Jesus, as he hung, dying on the cross.
So often I have heard it taught that God abandoned Christ at that moment on the cross.
Abandoned him because of the sin of the world he bore. Abandoned His one and only Son because God cannot be in the presence of sin. (I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog, on Psalm 10).
But might Christ have been doing something more when he cried out to God? Instead of merely crying out in the midst of the pain and suffering, might our Christ, who was always purposeful in every action, even to the end, have also cried out the beginning of this Psalm for a specific purpose?
For those who spend time memorizing, whether Scripture, songs, poetry, or lines in movies or tv shows, there is an interesting phenomena that takes place.
One only needs to hear the first few words to recall the memorized piece.
If I were to say “Romeo, Romeo,” you, once a student of high school English literature, might continue “wherefore art thou Romeo?” If you’re pretty good, you might go on to say “Deny thy father and refuse thy name.” And if you’re that kind of person, you might even entertain us with the entire scene.
Or if I were to sing “”Hello darkness, my old friend.” You might just start singing along “I’ve come to talk with you again.” (Simon and Garfunkel, “The Sound of Silence”) Okay, maybe not, because those who know me, know I can’t quite carry a tune.
And one only needs to hear a few words to recall a scene or episode of a favorite movie or tv show.
“Beam me up, Scotty.”
“Elementary my dear Watson.”
“There’s no place like home.”
Likewise, when Jesus uttered those words from the cross, those present who were schooled in Jewish text, would also know the next line, “Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.” And, having memorized, prayed, spoken, and sung the Psalms, they would more than likely know the entire Psalm. The Psalm might begin with a lament of abandonment, but it does not stay there. The Psalm talks about the experience of one who is scorned, mocked, surrounded, and beaten down. It cries out for God to save. It talks about God’s holiness and his trustworthiness to rescue. And then proclaims that God “has not turned his back on them” but rather listens and responds.
The Psalm carries us through a wide spectrum of emotion and, like a great symphony, carries us to the crescendo of great victory, satisfaction, rejoicing, and even of feasting.
Indeed the Psalm ends with “His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
They will hear about everything he has done.”
And isn’t that the case? We know the words Jesus cried out on the cross. We know he died and was buried. But we celebrate because he was raised from the dead on the third day (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Indeed, as Jesus spoke these words, he knew how the Psalm ended and he reminds us to remember: the cross is not the final word, because in the end the victory belongs to the Lord.
Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me as You hung on the cross that evil did not have the final say. That we are not abandoned. That you hear our cries and You have provided the victory in Christ.
Grace & Peace