March 20, 2017 • Life for Leaders
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Mark 15 recounts the events of Jesus’s crucifixion. In verses 24-26, Jesus is nailed to the cross, with a sign identifying him, ironically, as “The King of the Jews.” Then, “at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (Which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (15:34).
These words appear in italics in our translation because they are a quotation from Psalm 22:1, which reads, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” In his time of extreme anguish, Jesus cried out to his Heavenly Father in words that he heard many times in the synagogue. These words allowed him to express the cry of his heart.
Jesus’s citation of Psalm 22 raises all sorts of vexing questions. We might wonder: Did Jesus know the answer to his “why” question? In what way did the Father abandon Jesus on the cross? How can God forsake God? Though we can offer speculative answers to these questions, in the end, we must recognize that we are confronting one of the greatest mysteries in all of life. What we do know, however, is that by dying, Jesus bore the penalty for our sin. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus did not become a sinner. Rather, the sinless one took upon himself the judgment for our sin. To put it simply, Jesus entered hell so that we might enter heaven.
Because Jesus experienced abandonment from the Father, you and I don’t have to know this experience. To be sure, there are times in life when we feel as if God has abandoned us. Sometimes our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. God can seem distant, or even worse. Perhaps we’re going through a crisis in our family. Or maybe we’re overwhelmed by the challenges or injustices of our workplace. In these times, we are comforted by the fact that Jesus is a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). Moreover, when we focus on his sacrifice for us, we are reminded that no matter what we feel, God has not abandoned us. Because of what Jesus did on Good Friday, we can celebrate the truth of Easter. We can rejoice in the fact that God’s love triumphs and claims us as his own forever.
As it says in Romans 8, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thanks be to God for this amazing, life-changing, world-changing truth!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever felt abandoned by God? When?
What reassured you of God’s presence and love?
How does the death of Christ on the cross make a difference in your life?
Gracious Lord Jesus, thank you for being our Savior. Thank you for bearing our sin on the cross. Thank you for dying so that we might live.
In particular, we thank you for entering into the “hell” of separation from the Father. Though we don’t really understand this, we believe that you experienced this for our sake — and the sake of the world — that which our sin deserved. You took our place so that we might take yours.
We find it comforting, Lord, to know that you understand how it feels when the Father is distant. And it is even more wonderful to realize that, because of what you suffered, the Father, no matter what we feel, will never abandon us.
All praise be to you, Jesus, for your sacrifice. All praise be to you, for your steadfast love. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: The Cross and Resurrection (Mark 14:32-16:8)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.