Insert text here.
We all ask "Why" questions. Jesus did, too. But it sounds more like a cry for help than a question.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!" Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on the reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him." Matthew 27:45-49 NKJV, condensed
Darkness makes the world seem small. It hold us in, encircles us, restricts our movement, chills our bones. We become jumpy and see things that aren't there. It's easy to get lost in the dark, and feel apprehensive. We don't know who's out there or what eyes may be watching. Darkness at night is expected. Black skies at midday signal alarm.
Three hours after the crucifixion began, the light of the sun disappeared and darkness descended upon Skull Hill. In a matter of minutes, the scene changed from the typical brutal crucifixion, to a hushed eeriness. People looked around, appealed to each other for answers, ascribed this strange phenomenon to the gods. Maybe even the Passover God of the Jewish people.
Centuries later, we explain it away--it was an eclipse, simple as that. But wouldn't that be an odd coincidence to have an eclipse precisely when Jesus was dying! Others respond by discussing the sins committed that day, contrasting the images of night and day, and declaring that darkness reigns whenever sin and evil rule the day. Then there's the possibility God was being kind and giving Jesus some privacy while he suffered. If that were the case, at least we know our silent God cared and did something.
It could have been a diversionary tactic to distract the mockers. Or a sign to the thoughtful of God's displeasure. There are many possibilities. But here's one interesting thought to ponder: Jesus was born at night under the light of an unusually large star; he died during daylight hours under cover of darkness. An extremely bright stellar object over Bethlehem guided the wise men to Jesus. Thirty-three years later, Calvary's noonday darkness calls those who are wise to embark on another journey. One that promises a resurrection morning.
Around three o'clock in the afternoon as the darkness was lifting, Jesus cried out in agony, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" To be forsaken sounds desolate and bitter. It feels like abandonment, like being deliberately left behind. Coming from the lips of Jesus the word startles us.
Upon hearing the cry of Jesus, one man, on his own or at the urging of others, sprang into action and offered Jesus a moist sponge to cool his lips. Everyone else decided they would wait and see. Excitement stirred. Maybe Elijah would come at last and save him!
Traditional Christian theology teaches that God is holy and sin is a barrier that separates us from God. Therefore as Jesus bore our sins upon the cross, he was actually cut off. God turned his back on Jesus. The good news is that Jesus saw the condemning back of God so that we may see the welcoming face of God.
There's an inexplicable mystery here, and a wonderful gift free for the taking-- forgiveness for all those things we do to each other that grieve the heart of God, and perpetual access to our loving heavenly Father. We don't have to understand or even like the theology of the cross. But this much is fundamental. Jesus was more than an extraordinary Teacher, more than an admirable Example, more than a radical or gallant Hero. Jesus is our living Savior.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" That's the first line of Psalm 22 in the Old Testament. From the cross Jesus was quoting scripture, finding sustenance therein, and possibly would have recited the entire Psalm had he been able.
Psalm 22 starts in the lowest depth of the soul, slowly crawls out of the hole and then stands tall with words of praise for the holiness and faithfulness of God. Jesus felt forsaken - you bet. Jesus was forsaken - yes. But for Jesus the cross was his main event, his purpose for living. He was accomplishing the work set out for him, inching his way one torturous second at a time, to a glorious victory. "Weeping may endure for the night; but joy comes in the morning." That's also from the Psalms.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What are your most frequently asked "Why" questions?
How do you explain the 3 hours of darkness in the middle of crucifixion day? Was it a natural or supernatural phenomenon? Or doesn't it make any difference to you what caused it? What good purposes did the darkness serve?
When have you felt relief because it got dark? When do you find darkness disconcerting?
What does the concept of forsaken mean to you? When have you felt forsaken? Was it feelings or fact? How did you survive being forsaken? Does it still impact you life?If you can't say you were ever forsaken, what is the closest you ever came to being abandoned or left behind to fend for yourself?
Was Jesus justified in asking God why God had forsaken him? What emotions are behind such a question?
Read Psalms 22. Here's a sampling of some of the despairing phrases:"Why are You so far from helping me? . . I cry but You do not hear . . . I am a worm, and despised . . .they gape at me. . . I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like melted wax. . . my strength is dried up . ." Which phrases describe you when you feel your lowest? What other words have you used to express your anguish?
Psalms 22 doesn't end in despair. The writer looks up."But You, O Lord, do not be far from me. . . I will declare Your name, in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. . . All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord. . . For the kingdom is the Lord's and He rules over the nations. . . He has done this." Have you ever decided to praise God even though you didn't feel like it? If so, what happened when you refocused and looked up?
Interpret and react to this statement: "Jesus was forsaken on the cross so that we never need to be."
Outline your beliefs about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Fill in the blanks as best you can. Is it easy or difficult for you to express what the cross of Jesus means to you?