I was taught that when Jesus died on the cross, that somehow he took the sin of the world upon himself and because God is righteous, and cannot stand to be near to sin, God turned God’s back of Jesus when Jesus cried out while hanging on the cross, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This teaching became something I struggled with when a friend of mine told me that while reading a children’s book to his daughter it painting the same picture as above, only his daughter asked why God would turn God’s back on God’s Son. Was it because God didn’t love God’s Son? Was God angry at Jesus? Why would God turn away?
Sometimes it takes the curiosity and insight of a child who is not intimidated to ask the hard questions to reveal how destructive our own thinking can be.
How one understands Good Friday deeply shapes how one pictures God – for better or for worse.
Good Friday has become an important day for me, and the words of Jesus on the cross, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” have been deeply comforting in my own Fridays. It is comforting because I no longer interpret this to mean that God’s back was turned and Jesus suffered alone. Think about it, what kind of picture does this paint of God?
Does God leave us when we endure our own Fridays? Does God turn God’s back every time I mess up? What about times I mess up a little? How big does my mess up need to be? If God turned God’s back on Jesus, God’s Son, how can I trust that God will be with me when I endure a crisis of my own?
If I understand Good Friday to be the day God turned God’s back on Jesus, and God did this because God can’t be close to sin, that means God’s back is turned toward me a lot of the time. This will deeply form one’s psyche and will affect the way one lives in very destructive ways!
So, what is meant when Jesus cries out on the cross? First, it has helped me to understand that Jesus was echoing a lament found in the Psalms. Psalms 22v1-2 say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”
Have you ever felt this way?
This is a powerful lament filled with emotion that echo my words every time I go through a Friday of my own. Each of us has gone through our own Friday, and many of us have gone through several. In our Fridays, we endure loss, grief, pain, confusion, etc. If we are honest we all have asked two questions: “Why is this happening?” and “Where are you in the midst of this God?” This, I think, is the very heart of the Psalmists lament.
So, when Jesus cries out on the cross, “My God my God why have you forsaken me”, he is not giving a statement, but expressing a very human emotion, “God, where are you?”
Have you felt alone? Have you felt like God has rejected you, or turned away from you? Have you ever felt lost because you just didn’t understand why something was happening?
Good Friday is powerful because it reflects that Jesus felt the same way you and I do when we go through a difficult season in our lives. Jesus understands our pain, suffering, confusion, and loneliness that each of us has felt and some of us are feeling right now.
As we know though, the story doesn’t end there. Somehow, in a very mysterious way, God was working in the midst of Good Friday to bring about reconciliation. In the midst of death, God worked to bring about new life.
This is the Christian Hope. The Christian Hope then, is not that we have all the answers, or that we never falter in our faith or never doubt that God is present. The Christian Hope is that even when we feel alone, confused, lost or frustrated that somehow, in someway, God is working in the middle of all this to bring about new life.
May you experience this Hope in new and fresh ways this Good Friday.