Today is Good Friday. Today we remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross, when He willingly laid down His life for us, suffering immeasurably so that we could have the ability to become sons and daughter of God, rescued from hell, now miraculously able to join Him in Heaven one day.
This has obviously been on my mind this week. One of the unexpected benefits of being far from family, and the normal holiday events that fill up our time leading up to these big days, is that I find myself with more time, more blank space, more ability to meditate on the true meaning of these holy-days. Our kids are still young, so I am really pondering how I want our holidays to look going forward. Do I want Easter to be about pretty dresses and white patent leather shoes and candy filled baskets? I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with all of that. But what is more important to me is that my kids know the stories about their Savior; His humble beginning, His miracles on earth, and His ultimate sacrifice and then triumph over the grave. And yes, I should be teaching them all of these things every day, but there is an obvious advantage to using the seasons and holidays of each calendar year to reinforce these truths.
So with that in mind, I’ve been meditating this week on the sacrifice that Christ gave us when He laid down His life for us. And the word forsaken kept catching my attention. Specifically, when Jesus was on the cross and cried out in torment “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” That sentence has just been stuck in my head all week.
I took some time on Tuesday to sit down and really study out the word. When I am doing a study, I typically start with the definition of a word so I can really understand it. Forsake means “to abandon, renounce or give up.” It’s a depressing word. When I think on forsaken, I think of the term God-forsaken. “This God-forsaken land,” for example. It connotates such desolate loneliness, such hopelessness. I have friends who have been forsaken. By spouses. By parents. By lifelong friends. The wounds left by being forsaken go deep. They have far-reaching, long lasting effects.
Forsaken occurs 76 times in the Bible, and the vast, VAST majority of them are in reference to the Israelites forsaking the God of their fathers. Pick any of the passages to examine (most are in the prophets), and you will feel the heart wrenching sadness God experiences as his people turn their backs on Him over and over again.
When Jesus was in the garden, he begged the Father to spare him from what was to come. He knew what the payment for all our sins would require. He knew the suffering that was coming. He knew He was going to be forsaken.
And on the cross, as He suffered unimaginably to pay our sins in full, the Father turned His back on Him. While He became the spotless Lamb sacrificed to save us, God separated himself from Jesus in a way that neither of them had ever experienced. God poured out his wrath upon His Son, so that justice would be paid.
Is it any wonder then, what Jesus cried out on the cross? “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I don’t think I’ll ever be able to comprehend how awful it was. I read a few commentaries on this passage and a few things stood out to me.This is the only time that Jesus does not refer to God the Father as “Father.” In His greatest suffering, He reached out for a scripture that adequately expressed His agony and abandonment, and quoted Psalm 22:1. He referred to Jehovah as His God, with humility but also possessiveness. He did not lose His faith in God, but rather it was what sustained Him. As Chuck Smith put it, “He was forsaken for a time, that you need not be forsaken forever.” I am so thankful for that!
Interestingly, the word forsaken only occurs 6 times in the New Testament, after Christ’s death and resurrection. I wonder if this is because now, finally, the New Testament saints understood. They knew they were bought with a price, and sealed unto redemption. They were certain that God (their Father) would no longer forsake them. They had security. What hope this brings me! We no longer have to cry out “God don’t forsake me,” He has promised that He never will. I am so thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice so that I could have that assurance!
May you have a wonderful weekend as we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Risen Savior!