The Questions of Jesus: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Midweek in the Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 21, 2018
When you’re growing up, you have a lot of questions. What is that? When are we getting there? Can I have that? And the perennial, Why?
When you’re an adult, you have just as many questions, it’s just that many of them go unspoken. Why do I do the same bonehead mistakes over and over? Why is it harder and harder to remember things? Why am I so busy? Why do some things get harder and harder?
We have a lot of questions. Sometimes we ask them because we’re dissatisfied with the way things are. Sometimes we ask because we want to learn and grow. Sometimes we ask because it’s our duty. Asking questions of the doctor for an elderly parent. Asking questions of your child because you suspect they’re fudging the truth.
Sometimes our questions reveal our lack of trust in God. Why is this happening to me? Sometimes we genuinely seek God’s will and we ask Him in faith. We ought to repent of our questioning God’s will and keep asking according to His will, keep searching the Scriptures, keep growing in His Word.
We need to learn and grow. That is the life-long way of the disciple of Christ. We ask Him, we learn of Him, we grow according to His will, His way. As our Master Teacher, He asks questions as well. But He asks us to teach us, as all good teachers will make use of questions of their learners. And every question we have looked at this Lenten season has been just such a question. To get us to think. To bring us to repentance. To increase our faith. To show us that He is the way and the truth and the life.
Every question we have pondered He has asked as the one who is teaching, as the one who is in control. We close our look at His questions with His question from the cross. He has asked questions of the disciples, of those who arrested Him, of Pontius Pilate. From the cross He asks a question of His Father. This question is different from the others. He is not in the role of Master Teacher. He is the Suffering Servant. He is suffering the very thing He had been preparing for. The very thing He had been moving toward. The very thing everyone else was trying to prevent.
And now that He is enduring it He cries out, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? This is the cry of dereliction, of abandonement, of being forsaken by His Father. Is there a greater mystery than this cry of our Lord? How can it be that Jesus is eternally God and eternally one with the Father and yet is forsaken by His Father? How can the one who spoke resoundingly—on two occasions no less, at Jesus’ Baptism and at His Transfiguration—“This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased,” now forsake His very Son?
Christians have pondered this mystery over the ages. To some it’s such a stretch beyond reason that they fall away, no longer believing in Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God and the only Savior of the world. To non-Christians, the reasonable question is, “Why would God do this to His Son? How can you possibly believe Jesus is God if He is forsaken by God? How can He be God if He dies? Why would you believe such things?” And so many people reject this question of Jesus and the answer to it.
For those of us who put our complete and eternal hope in our Lord Jesus Christ when we hear His question we take it for what it is, a mystery. We hear our Lord on the cross and we marvel at such love that God would forsake His own Son so that we may be with Him forever. The reason we confess our creeds as we do is not so much to explain but to simply confess. To say to the world and to God, this is what we believe. We believe in things we cannot comprehend, things that are a mystery, but things that are the very essence of our salvation—the Gospel itself, Jesus Christ forsaken by His Father so that we will not have to cry out in dereliction, but rather be welcomed by our Father in heaven.
Is it possible for two opposite things to be true at once? I won’t delve into the philosophy of it or the science or perhaps science fiction of it or any other way people might try to determine if two opposite things can exist together. But I will do what Jesus did and that is go to the Scripture. On the cross Jesus was crying out in dereliction. Why have you forsaken Me? But He wasn’t crying out in despair. He wasn’t believing that His Father was no longer His Father. The opposite, in fact. He was speaking the words of the psalmist in Psalm 22. That Psalm is fulfilled in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. We would do well to ponder that Psalm next week, which is Holy Week.
Jesus was being forsaken by His Father and yet He nevertheless cried out, My God. Jesus never wavered in faith in His Heavenly Father. What He bore is beyond what we can imagine, being forsaken by God. But in the eternal mystery, He nevertheless remained one with the Father. As a preacher I am grateful that the call to preach is not to explain the unexplainable but simply to proclaim. As Christians we ought to learn from our Lord and all His questions that we are forever His disciples and are learning. He doesn’t explain everything, but He does forgive us. We are the Father’s children and He won’t explain everything to us, but He does love us and provide for everything we need eternally.
Let us let the mystery remain a mystery. Let us hear the question of our Lord and not try to make sense of it but rather marvel in such incomprehensible love that would move the Father to forsake His Son and still raise Him from grave; such inexpressible love that would move the Son to be abandoned, to be forsaken by His own Heavenly Father. If we have questions, if we don’t understand, let us ask in faith. Humbly seeking from God in His Word the answers that He gives us.
He didn’t give us His Word so that we would understand all things but He did give it to us so that we would be given all things. He didn’t give us His Son so that the world would have all their questions answered, but He did give Him to us so that the world would be forgiven and receive the sacrifice for sins.
Every question Jesus has asked up to this point has been building up to this question. It is the one that answers all the others. Every question He has asked us we have fallen short in our answer. But this question is not asked of us. It is asked of the Father. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Our answers to Jesus’ questions of us must not be answers that we come up with but rather what God has given us. And the answer is a person. It is Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, suffering for the sin of the world, being forsaken by God so that we will not be eternally forsaken by Him but rather be with Him eternally in heaven, never derelict again, never forsaken again, never separated again.
Ultimately, the questions Jesus asked are to get us to look to Him, because He is the answer. In Him there are no more questions. Oh sure, our sinful nature will continue to doubt and question. But in Christ we see that we have something far greater than a rational understanding of God. We have God Himself, in the flesh, given for us and for our salvation. We have the salvation He won for us on the cross by being forsaken. In this is the entry to heaven on the Last Day. Anything we still don’t know for all eternity will not be a source of disappointment but rather delight because we will see that everything our God has given us to know is exactly what we need to know. Until then we have His Word and we ought to seek, seek, seek, gaining ever greater confidence that in Christ is forgiveness and salvation. Amen.