There is something in the account of Jesus’ time on the cross that has always bugged me. Part of me hesitates to be so crass as to say that something about the most amazing expression of sacrificial love in the history of the universe actually “bugs me.” Yet, the fact remains. Something about the account of Jesus on the cross just bugs me.
There is an unanswered question that I’ve been lugging around for years. I’ve been in a church service almost every Sunday of my life. I was born on a Sunday and on the next Sunday my mom took me to church. I rarely miss a weekend and I’ve never missed an Easter. I’ve racked up over three decades of hearing and giving Easter sermons. In that time, I can’t remember a single person who resolved this nagging question.
WHY DID JESUS ASK: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Ok, I get that he was in more than physical anguish, but spiritual anguish as well. That fits with historic orthodox faith. But, am I supposed to believe that there was a schism in the Trinity? Am I supposed to believe that Jesus was temporarily kicked out of the God club? That sort of response would be out-of-bounds for any serious minded Christian or theologian.
There remains an unresolved tension. If Jesus is God in a skin-suite, did he ever say anything without significance? Did he ever ask a question for which didn’t already know the answer? While you and I would most likely rattle off profane gibberish, or scathingly question the presence and purpose of God at the height of excruciating pain, wouldn’t Jesus be above that? Should we assume that has is pain increased his divine attributes decreased? I’m especially referencing his ability to know everything. You know, that quality that is often called omniscience. So, why did he ask this question?
Did Jesus ask this question to get information, OR, did he ask this question give information?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the first line of Psalm 22. But it is more than the kick-off verse of an Old Testament passage. It is the first line of a song, a song that was to be sung in worship. It is a song that was to be sung as a reminder and celebration of the grace of God, who rescues and cares for his people. It tells the story of being moved from horror to hope. It is a song of redemption. One of the purposes of the song is to give perspective. We feel like God is absent in our suffering, yet he is intimately working through our suffering.
The spectators who surrounded Jesus were products of a predominantly auditory culture. They learned by hearing. And when they heard the first line of Psalm 22, the rest of the song would have unfolded in their minds like a lawn chair. Could it be that in the moments before Jesus declared, “It is finished” he mustered the last bits of remaining breath to utter as best as he could a song of grand redemption? Could this have been a gift of hope and clarity for those who listened?
Could it be that Jesus died singing?
1 My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?
Why do you remain so distant?
Why do you ignore my cries for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
3 Yet you are holy.
The praises of Israel surround your throne.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 You heard their cries for help and saved them.
They put their trust in you and were never disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
8 “Is this the one who relies on the LORD?
Then let the LORD save him!
If the LORD loves him so much,
let the LORD rescue him!”
9 Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
and led me to trust you when I was a nursing infant.
10 I was thrust upon you at my birth.
You have been my God from the moment I was born.
11 Do not stay so far from me,
for trouble is near,
and no one else can help me.
12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
13 Like roaring lions attacking their prey,
they come at me with open mouths.
14 My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count every bone in my body.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
19 O LORD, do not stay away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
20 Rescue me from a violent death;
spare my precious life from these dogs.
21 Snatch me from the lions’ jaws,
and from the horns of these wild oxen.
22 Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among all your people.
23 Praise the LORD, all you who fear him!
Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not ignored the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned and walked away.
He has listened to their cries for help.
25 I will praise you among all the people;
I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the LORD will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
27 The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him.
People from every nation will bow down before him.
28 For the LORD is king!
He rules all the nations.
29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
Let all mortals—those born to die—bow down in his presence.
30 Future generations will also serve him.
Our children will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
31 His righteous acts will be told to those yet unborn.
They will hear about everything he has done.