Several weeks ago a good friend asked me about Jesus’ final question from the cross. “Why would Jesus have any doubts in God if he believed he would be raised from the dead?” Together we looked at the cross connections this quotation has with Psalm 22 and explored how the Jewish culture and traditions may have influenced why Jesus would recite it before the crowd on Golgotha Hill. Still… this conversation stuck closely to my heart as I contemplated Jesus’ final few whispers to those who would listen.
Perhaps the most well known whisper from the cross comes from the depths of his desperation. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Is this doubt? Has Jesus lost his faith? Has the darkness and bleakness of death set in so far that he can no longer sense the very presence which he saw as his own personal identity and as his own Father (John 10:7-18)?
It seems too easy to dismiss Jesus’ cry as simply being a recital of Psalm 22 in an effort for reflection to the Jews who would gather its meaning from memory recall. Jesus must have had a deeper meaning which embraced the very holistic Incarnality of his human existence. Jesus felt the heavy weight of carrying the cross up the steep embankment of Golgotha hill, the sting of the pointed nails piercing his wrists and feet, the trickling blood flowing down his forehead from the crown of thorns around his brow, and the coarseness of the wooden cross as it scrapped his back every time he went to take a breath. By the very definition of excruciating pain the cross becomes dehumanizing in nature.
Several years ago I can remember writing a paper on the medical effects of crucifixion and the researched understanding of how Jesus died. It was without a doubt one of the hardest papers which I have had to write throughout my college years. I spent many nights up contemplating the horrors of what those who stood on Golgotha would have bared witness too. There would be times that I had to take a break from writing as the tears which were streaming down my face would make it impossible to focus on what I was trying to communicate. Even now I feel the pressures of a burdened heart as I ponder that memory. Without a doubt in my heart it was then that I felt the furthest from God! In truth, I wanted it that way. Yes, I confess it. I wanted it this way because I could not bear the thought of another human being, let alone Jesus, paying that kind of sacrifice for the sins which I have committed.
Yet I am still... slow to respond...and perhaps that is the way God wants us to be. Still and slow, so that we might catch the promise of hope to which Jesus has in his whispers from the cross.
But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.