These cross-born words of Jesus from Matthew 27:46 (NRSV), hauntingly echo across the centuries to us… and they are hard to hear. Was Jesus really all alone on the cross? Had God abandoned his own Son in his time of great need?
God, why have you forsaken me? It’s a tough question all of us have asked. Our circumstances and words are certainly different from Jesus’ on the cross… but the question is the same.
Questioning God in prayer, as Jesus did, is not an act of unbelief or sin. It’s an act of faith! In fact, as pastor and writer Adam Hamilton shares (leaning on his commentary on this passage in this blog), questioning God helps keep the lines of communication open, especially in times when God seems silent.
But when Jesus felt all alone on the cross, there was more than just questioning God going on there. The phrase, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is actually the opening line to Psalm 22, an ancient Jewish worship song that Jesus would have known. And as the song’s words ran through his mind, Jesus would have come to this: “Yet you are holy (God), enthroned on the praises of Israel,” (Psalm 22:3, NRSV).
John Stonecypher, the creator of The Shack Bible Project, shares that Psalm 22 says “I feel like Papa (God) has abandoned me, but I know He has not! On the cross, Jesus is faced with the Garden of Eden’s serpent’s oh-so-convincing lie that Papa (God) cannot be trusted. But by faith he pushes through and refuses to believe the lie. He honestly expresses he’s feelings, but also shouts his triumph over human darkness, fear, and isolation. ‘I feel forsaken,’ Jesus says ‘but I know I am not.’”
When God is silent or even absent, follow Jesus’ example. It will give you confident hope of God’s presence, no matter what your situation may be… a confident hope that even death is not the end. Remember… Easter is still yet to come!