Monday, May 19, 2014

A Cry Not of Despair or Distress, but of Faith

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34)

This prayer was not a cry of despair, not a complaint against God.  It was not a cry of disappointment that the help upon which He had hoped had not come in the end.  We understand this right away when we read Psalm 22 and see that of which it speaks.  First and foremost, we notice that here speaks a tortured person in his uttermost distress, a distress that strikingly reminds us of what happens with Jesus, of course.  The one who here speaks is mocked and ridiculed by the people: they shoot out the lip and shake the head, saying “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him.  Let Him deliver Him since He delights in Him!” (Psa 22:8).  He has become a reproach of men and despised by the people.  His enemies surround him.  They have pierced his hands and his feet and divided his garments among them.  His strength is dried up, and his tongue sticks to his jaws.  In the midst of distress, he can nevertheless confess that God is God, saying “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psa 22:3).  God will not despise nor abhor the affliction of the afflicted (Psa 22:24).  He will do what all the ends of the world shall remember (Psa 22:27).

In other words, we do not hear a cry of despair here from someone who has lost his faith.  This is, rather, a prayer that is indeed born of faith.  At the same time that Jesus lets us understand that He truly is forsaken of God and tastes of the utter and most awful consequences of our fall from God, He shows that He does this in obedience to God's will, in faith in God.  Therefore, this cry—this word from the cross—belongs well together with the other words from the cross.  When He says, “It is finished,” He means precisely that work work which His Father gave Him to do—that work which in every point kept the Law which we have broken.  To the last drop He tastes the consequences of all that we have neglected and done wrong.  And when He says, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (quoting Psalm 31:5), He expresses the same obedience and the same faith.  He was “obedient unto death,” says Paul, “even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8).

Eric Andrae/Bo Giertz, Gottesdienst, Vol. 22.1

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