Forsaken

Last year, I wrote a series of three poems used for reflection during my church's Good Friday service. I decided to repost them this year, one Wednesday, one Thursday, and one Friday, in the hope they may help us remember the great sacrifice that happened before the joy of Easter.

May these words remind us of the depth of Christ's love for us.


Is all this really necessary?
This cross? This consequence borne by Christ?

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Things are not that bad.
Are they? 

We can only grasp a fraction
Of the immense weight 
Crashing down upon Jesus
That day.

The unimaginable burden
Of not only our individual misdeeds
Or our personal omissions,
But the iniquities 
And atrocities
Of generation 
upon generation
upon generation.
The entirety of wickedness
Since evil invaded the world.

The sin of human history
Creating a distance beyond our understanding.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Christ is forsaken. 
Dropped in the chasm 
Of overflowing corpses.
The bodies of those who have been massacred.
The hundreds murdered every day.
Every day.
For years stacked upon decades stacked upon centuries.

Christ is forsaken.
Adrift in the gulf
Of echoing wails.
The cries of those sexually assaulted.
Every two minutes. 
Over 
And over
And over again.
Shrieking in their violation and pain.

Christ is forsaken.
Standing in the abyss
Between oppressor and oppressed.
Taking the beatings of the millions,
Millions,
Who have been
And are 
And will be
Imprisoned, exploited, and enslaved.

Christ is forsaken.
Experiencing the void
Of lost generations.
Entire people groups wiped out
When neighbor turns against neighbor
When former friends slaughter one another
As nations collapse into genocide. 

It’s too much.
It’s all too much.

Too much for us to hold. 
Too vast for us to grasp.

This is the great burden borne by Christ.
Taking iniquities beyond imagination
Upon the only shoulders broad enough to carry them 
And loving enough to be crushed by their weight.

From the chasm of evil, 
For the sake of humanity,
Jesus cries out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? It is a question that hangs heavy. Even when I read the words, I feel their depth of despair. If I heard them uttered out loud, I might break under the weight of their emotion.

Forsaken is not a word uttered with regularity in day-to-day life. It is thick and empty all at the same time.

This substantial question is uttered several times in the Bible. First by David, as recorded in Psalm 22. Later, by Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels.

Although, Jesus did not just utter this question, he shouted it. In a loud voice.

He could have whispered, but it was not a secret. This was not a private prayer between He and His Father. These were words Jesus wanted us to hear. This was private desperation and public hope crashing together in a gloriously agonizing moment.

The cross.

On the cross, Jesus fulfills His divine destiny. He quotes Psalm 22, and lets us know that He is satisfying its words in all their fullness.

We can see that in the unfolding of events. He is surrounded by people who mock His faith, His identity, and His God (v. 7-8). His strength runs out and his mouth runs dry (v. 15), His hands and feet are pierced (v. 16). He watches as his clothes are divided by casting lots before He even dies (v. 18).

Jesus’ crucifixion calls us back to Psalm 22 as it meets the criteria for historical accuracy. But its fulfillment runs much deeper than that.

Because Psalm 22 is not a piece of historical prose. It is a lament. A deep cry of anguish. The words of Psalm 22 are desperately heart-breaking and achingly beautiful.

Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. - Psalm 22:13-14

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Forsaken. Abandoned. Separated.

As Jesus took our sin upon Himself, He took the separation that comes with it. Because at its core, this is what sin does. It divides. Sin severs us from righteousness. From relationship. From wholeness. From peace. From good.

What was it like for the Son of God, who had never known anything but perfect unity with His Father to suddenly become separated?

As the Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, “for the first time, and the last, God turned His back on His boy.”

To a lesser degree, this is a feeling familiar to us. We have felt ignored and thirsty and separated and tired and abandoned.. We have wondered where God could be found in the midst of all this pain.

When Jesus cries out words of forsakenness, He shows us where God can be found. Right in the middle of the anguish.

And as Jesus points us to Psalm 22, He points us to a perspective we can have in the midst of the despair. Psalm 22 ends with declarations of God’s goodness and salvation.

future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! - Psalm 22:30b-31

Hope.

Not a false kind of hope that overlooks the pain or pretends it can be undone, but the real kind of hope that comes alongside to bear with those who grieve.

Faith in a God who will come through to rescue and who hears our cries as we wait for that moment. Trust in a God who loves us enough to send His Son to anguish on a cross on our behalf. Confidence that this sacrifice satisfied what was needed for atonement= at-one-ment. No longer separated, but together. With God. His grace, love, joy, and peace made available.

So we can cry with Jesus, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” knowing that He is there, listening, bearing with us, bringing us grace. We are not forgotten.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.