I'd like you all to meet Melissa. You've heard much about her before if you remember reading our Courageous post about her. I'm in a bible study right now with Melissa and find her mind and faith fascinating, so I asked her to guest blog for us a few times and she said Yes! Her words of wisdom are going to be such a gift to us all, especially this piece on "Forsaken." Thank you Melissa for preparing our hearts for this Easter.
There is something that has grabbed my attention as never before as I’ve been experiencing this Holy Week. I know it is directly related to the season of life that I am currently in. God has invitedme to a season of resting in Him. I believe God calls it obedience, a great book I’ve read a couple times calls it Spiritual Whitespace, a lot of people have called it my season of “wilderness”, but the extrovert in me just calls it loneliness. My life journey has taken a dramatic change of scenery. It’s been a great change of pace, but I don’t have nearly the same interaction with people that I was used to and that has taken some time to adjust to. But it was these feelings of my loneliness that made me stop in my tracks and look at the loneliness of Jesus in a completely fresh way.
Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday. This was the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. People treated Him as a king, throwing their cloaks and palm branches on the ground for him and his donkey. This was a big deal. It’s recorded in all four gospels and that’s pretty rare! (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19) As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, presenting himself as their Messiah, the people were praising him and hailing him: “Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Which, by the way, was the fulfillment to Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.) And in just a few days’ time, when Jesus doesn’t meet their exact expectations of what they thought a Messiah and King would do, these cries change from ‘Hosanna’ to ‘Crucify him.’ Talk about a shift!
Just a year earlier there was a mob of 5,000 men plus women and kids that flocked to him to hear him teach and now, in the Garden of Gethsemane his disciples, his friends, can’t even stay awake to pray with him and keep watch. THAT is a dramatic change. But that’s not what struck me. A promise that some days I repeat over and over to myself and cling to with white knuckles is found in Deuteronomy 31:6. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Straight from God’s mouth to my heart. He will never leave me and never forsake me. In everything I’ve been through, God was there and whispers ever so lovingly, ‘I was with you through it all.’ He was. He still is. Here’s what hit me: those words could not comfort Jesus. Those words were not true for Jesus.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked God three times for the cup (of God’s wrath and judgment) to be removed. If it couldn’t be removed, then; God’s will be done. It was really at this point that Jesus had made his decision, made up his mind knowing that the plan of salvation for all people was contingent on whether or not he suffered this brutal death on the cross. And because of His great love for us, He did. This was THE PLAN, even though Jesus really didn’t want to do it. Was it the physical pain? Was it the beating and scourging He knew was coming, is that what he was agonizing over? Something tells me it was more than that.
Throughout the gospels we read of Jesus’ intimacy with His Father. As a young boy, he stayed behind in the temple when his family left Jerusalem so he could be about his Father’s business (Luke 2:41-52). Mark 1:35 tells us Jesus got up early, when it was still dark out to spend time in prayer with His Father. After a crazy day He takes a break from His friends to be with God (Mark 6:45). The relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son is a very intimate one. In Gethsemane Jesus cries out to God and calls Him ‘Abba’, which is like us crying out, ‘Daddy.’ But as Jesus hung on the cross, God poured out His wrath on him and he became sin for us even though He knew no sin himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore our transgressions and our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5) and our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter2:24). Jesus cries out: “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cries out God, not Father. (This is the only time he does not call God, ‘Father’ in the gospels.) Jesus has been rejected by the people He came to save, he was denied, betrayed and ignored by his closest friends. This is a lot of relational and emotional pain, almost too much for one to bear. But then he is forsaken by God, a spiritual pain that cannot be imagined. What does Jesus do in light of this? He yields His spirit. He dies. For one time and one time only in all of eternity, God the Father turned away from Jesus the Son. Their relationship is severed. God tears His face from Jesus and the sin that has been laid on him. At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain that hung in the temple separating the presence of God, His Shekinah glory, from His people is torn in half, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51). Jesus’ torn body, his severed relationship with His Father and His death on the cross made it possible for every man, woman and child to enter into God’s presence, His eternal presence that is promised to “never leave us or forsake us.”
So as I walk through Good Friday, I will walk in remembrance of the pain and grief that Jesus willingly took on for me. I will lift up praises and prayers of thanksgiving that out of a deep love for me, Jesus was forsaken and left alone for a brief moment so I could rest in the promise that He will never leave me or forsake me.