Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why Have You Forsaken Me....or have you?

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ~ Psalm 22:1

This scripture should be at least vaguely familiar to even the occasional church-goer. Many of you will recognize it has part of some of the Gospel accounts of the death of Christ. This text is included in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Up until a couple years ago, these words always confused me very much. The Crucifixion and, more importantly, the Resurrection, are obviously huge turning points in the New Testament. Christ's statements are incredibly bold. He promises his mother he will "make all things new" - something so important but that no one understood at the moment. He tells a criminal to his side that he would be with Jesus in Paradise. In an act that I may never understand but surely respect, he forgave the very guards that were physically crucifying him. I've heard it claimed that this is the only time in history that humans were forgiven without repentance but I cannot confirm the truth in that. What I do know is that if such an unthinkable act of forgiveness were among that last words that Jesus spoke before his death, than that must mean it is pretty darn important.

But among all these things is still this phrase that is seemingly so negative among the other amazingly positive statements. During all the questioning from various officials, Jesus stood his ground. He never backed down from what he knew was true and what he knew to be his destiny. If he believed in that so much, than why would he think that he had been forsaken by his Father? As I said, this bothered and confused me for years.

Not anymore.

For me, there were two things to understand here. The first of which is that back in those days, Jews prayed heavily through the psalms. Many had them all memorized, which is awesome! Second, and more importantly is to read through the rest of Psalm 22. Yes, it starts out negative and whiny. But it goes on to say wonderful and honoring things about God.

"Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One' you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them." ~ Psalm 22:3-4

"But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declaire your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! ~ Psalm 22:19-23

Pretty powerful words and I'm sure that, had he possessed the strength and had it been his Father's will, he might have finished his prayer through the psalm and it would have made much more sense. As I mentioned before, Jews prayed with these psalms and many probably had all the psalms memorized. So for the people that stood at the foot of Christ's cross, hearing these first words of Psalm 22 made perfect sense. They did not need to hear the rest of it to know what was being referenced and what Jesus' true and complete prayer was.

In most liturgical churches, you won't hear these words in Church on Easter weekend. The reading cycle has us hearing an account this year which excludes this particular text. Regardless, I still think it is important to understand. God bless you as you prepare your heart for the highest holy day of the year!

Keep It Real!

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