I am preaching Jesus’ cry of abandonment from the Cross this Sunday.
I will be reading this (with some paraphrasing) from The Person of Christ, by Donald MacLeod. It’s a bit long, but worth every word, probably even twice. Read it. Read it again:
“Jesus was not forsaken all the time he was on the Cross. The dereliction [abandonment] was only a moment in a long journey … Yet it was the climactic moment, and a moment of incredible density; and it was so precisely because its agony was so compacted – so infinite – as to be well-nigh unsustainable. As an 18th-century Gaelic hymn expressed it, the whole [consequence] of sin (pains and agonies it would have taken the world eternity to endure) were all poured on him in one horrific moment…
Golgotha was more awful than Jesus had envisaged in Gethesemane. He felt forsaken, and he was forsaken. This involved, among other things, Jesus experiencing the agony of unanswered prayer. In Psalm 22, this idea is expressed just beside the words quoted by Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God why has thou forsaken me? … O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer…” Whatever he prayed for is hidden from us. … Whatever it was, there was no answer: only the echo of his own voice, the derision of those he had come to save, and the cruel taunts of hell.
Beside the unanswered prayer there was the loss of [consciousness of his sonship]…. Even in Gethsemane, Jesus had been able to say, “Abba!” But now the cry is “Eloi!”…. In his self-image, he is no longer Son, but Sin; no longer the “only”, the Beloved with whom God is well-pleased, but the cursed one: vile, foul, and repulsive….
Corresponding to the loss of the sense of sonship there was a real abandonment by God. No one was ever less prepared for such an experience than Jesus. As the eternal Word he had always been with God (John 1:1). As the incarnate Son the Father had always been with him (John 16:32). They had gone up from Bethlehem to Calvary, like Abraham and Isaac, “together” (Gen 22:6,8). But now, in the hour of his greatest need, God is not there. When he most needs encouragement, there is no voice to cry, “This is my beloved Son”…. No grace was extended to him, no favor shown, no comfort administered, no concession made. God was present only as displeased….He was cursed, because he became the “greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrator, blasphemer, there has ever been in the world.”
The paradox should not escape us. He was sinless. He was the son of God. But there…he was a sinner. He was sin.
He was the scapegoat. He was “outside”, in the outer darkness. He was beyond the cosmos, the realm of order and beauty, sinking instead into a black hole which no light could penetrate and from which, in itself, nothing meaningful could ever emanate.
We have to remind ourselves that Christ suffered vicariously. The gospel of dereliction [abandonment] is not that Christ shares our forsakneness, but that he saves us from it. He endured it not with us but for us. We are immune to the curse and to the condemnation precisely because Christ took them upon himself and went, in our place, into the outer darkness…”