“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).”
Where are you, God? Jesus’ cry of dereliction is all too familiar to those of us who have asked raw questions of God in the midst of our own suffering. For Jesus, where once light had shone down from above with the Father’s booming voice of affirmation, now the heavens went dark. God was silent as creation mourned its Maker’s suffering.
We can surmise Jesus’ palpable feeling of abandonment by the fact that his utterance remains one of the few untranslated phrases in the New Testament. No doubt the guttural Aramaic cry from Jesus’ lips was forever seared into the memory of the eyewitnesses to his brutal execution. Beyond merely embracing our suffering, though, Jesus’ words strike a note of hope. Where we are tempted to believe in our suffering that God either isn’t there or that He doesn’t care, Jesus quotes the first verse of David’s crucifixion psalm, a prophetic song that reverses our interpretation of divine silence. For where Psalm 22 opens with questioning God’s hiddenness, it goes on in remarkable detail to predict the sufferings of Christ, and closes with the promise that it is through this suffering that God will bring about salvation. The darkness of Easter Friday was a costly but necessary precursor to the dawn of Easter Sunday.
Who can you encourage with the promise of Psalm 22 that God has not abandoned them, and that after the darkness God promises to bring about a dawn?
Holy Father, we lament to see the cost of our sin in the suffering of our Saviour, Jesus, who felt Your absence so that we could know Your presence. In the midst of our suffering, would Holy Spirit teach us to trust that You really are there and that You really do care. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Dan Paterson is the founder of Questioning Christianity, a ministry helping you connect the Christian story to life’s deepest questions. He has experience as a pastor, lecturer, and public speaker, having studied Theology and Apologetics in Australia and at Oxford. Dan currently lives in Brisbane with his wife, Erin, and their favourite job is raising three wonderful boys.