By Jeff Cloeter
A little girl fell asleep while her father was singing to her. She drifted off during “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” As her breathing became rhythmic and deep, he tiptoed out of her room. The whole house was sleeping . . . until 3:00 a.m. “Daddy!” she screamed in terror. The girl woke up to discover her dad wasn’t there. He had been there when she fell asleep, but at 3:00 a.m., she found herself alone in a dark room.
Each week during the weeks leading up to our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, we have been tracking specific words from Jesus’ passion, from his death. These are words of life. The word for today is forsaken.
The word forsaken is a term of proximity. It implies that someone was once by your side. Near you. Next to you. With you. And then he or she left. To be forsaken is to be separated from someone.
We feel forsaken more often than we’d like to admit. A counselor recently told me that isolation is one of the biggest issues he sees in his clients. A person may be surrounded by others in a busy crowd or connected to crowds of people through technology. But, the counselor remarked, “So many people are alone.”
Many different circumstances can leave us forsaken. A divorce or breakup can leave us feeling forsaken. A family feud can push us to the sidelines. A hurtful comment can leave a person on the outside. Maybe you’ve been misunderstood. Maybe a friend didn’t come through for you or have your back when you counted on his or her loyalty. Maybe you’ve been overshadowed or dismissed. Maybe you’ve been slandered or gossiped about. Maybe it feels as though you’ve been put on a shelf and forgotten, invisible to those around you.
Forsaken. Jesus experienced that on the cross:
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV)
Jesus was not the first sufferer to use these exact words. In this cry of anguish our Savior was echoing Psalm 22. A thousand years earlier, David uttered these words from his own place of abandonment and despair. They are honest words, words unconcerned with polite behavior. These words are definitely not pious platitudes. The psalm begins in groans of pain:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest (Psalm 22:1-2 ESV, emphasis added).
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Do you hear the anguish in Jesus’ question? We wonder, “How could the Father abandon his own Son? Why would Jesus—Jesus!—be forsaken?” You know the answer to that! The apostle Paul summarizes it in these few words:
For our sake [the Father] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).
Because of Jesus, by faith in Jesus, you are righteous—right with God. You are righteous! God will not forsake you. Not ever. And there’s more!
You are never alone, never forsaken in your pain. Jesus has experienced the very depths of forsakenness. Jesus was alone in his pain so that you are not alone in yours!
Are you forsaken? He knows.
Are you dying? He knows.
Are you attacked? He knows.
Are you alone? He knows.
Are you hurt? He knows.
You got something on your back? He knows.
Jesus was alone in his pain so that you are not alone in yours! He was forsaken so that you will never be.
It is important to note that while Psalm 22 starts in a place of despair, that is not where it ends. As you read Psalm 22, you will notice that the tide turns. It moves from forsakenness to a place of deep faith. The concluding verses of the psalm describe a point of rescue and then a feast of celebration.
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. . . . From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. . . . All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you (Psalm 22:22, 25, 27 ESV.
The last words of Psalm 22 are not words of forsakenness but words of celebration and victory. So, too, the final words of Jesus from the cross were not “My God, why have you forsaken me?” His final words were “It is finished”! The forsaken One is now your Deliverer, your ever-present Help.
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from the sermon outlines that accompany CTA’s new Easter preparation theme, It Is Finished. Use these downloadable sermons and the included discussion questions to enhance your worship and Bible time in the weeks leading up to Easter!
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