What seemingly shocking words from the lips of Jesus. How can this be so? What is happening here? We never could have imagined that it would be this way. Jesus the God man crying out in desolation and abandonment. Bewilderment and confusion invades us as we hear His painful cry ringing in our ears. How absurd, how senseless, is this the end for us too are we now doomed?
Throughout His life there were peak moments when he revealed His unique and extraordinary relationship with the God, He called His Father, using the word Abba (Mk.14:36) that expressed the depth of intimacy. “No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son (Matt. 11:27),” “I and the Father are one” (Jn.10:30), “to have seen me is to have seen the Father” (Jn.14:9) – no one ever dared to claim such intimacy with God before.
And now we hear Him cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Could it be possible? Is it true? Is everything He said about his relationship with His God, His Abba, all mere words, fantasy, the language of poetry and wishful thinking now crossed out as he feels the full blast of our human weakness, reduced to human rubble and annihilation.
All we can say to him is, now you know, now you know what it is like, now you cry as we cry, why God, why have you left me? What have I done to deserve this? Am I being punished for my sins? Why did you let it happen? That desolate cry that echoes down the corridors of human existence since its beginning.
But is it not at this moment more than any other moment in the life of Jesus that we can really identify with Him and He with us? Is it not here that he is most like us, that we are really one with him? We have reached a very profound moment in the life of Jesus and in the life of humankind, a moment when “the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).
When is it that we receive real comfort and consolation? Is it when someone tells us everything will be alright, we’ll get over it? No, not really. Is it when someone tells us what we should do, what course of action to take or gives us words of advice or encouragement? Maybe. But far more important than anything anybody can do or say is simply, very simply the presence of one who cares. Someone whose attitude is, ‘I don’t know what to say or do but I’ll stay here with you, I won’t run away because I can’t stomach what is happening to you”, they may never put it into words, but silently remain present to and with us. The person who in a very real sense shares our burden, our pain, that’s the kind of presence that somehow give us new life, new vitality, new hope to pick up the pieces and go on. It is reflected in the kind of things we say when we look back at a time of crisis, ‘I’ll never forget so and so they stood by me and listened to me through thick and thin when I had no one to turn to.
This is but a pale reflection of what God does for us in Jesus. Our God is not a vague, distant god with a weird sense of humour who delights in our distress and demands his pound of flesh for our sins.
He is not a God of revenge, but a God who is so moved, so touched by our sorry plight, even our resistance to His Love that he comes close so close that in Jesus He experiences our experience of desolation and abandonment.
The mystery of His Love is not that He takes away all our questions or our pain right now, but that first and foremost His desire is to be with us and to fill us with his presence. Jesus experiences our ultimate and most terrifying fear, the fear of being totally abandoned; a fear that reaches its greatest intensity when we feel broken, helpless and useless. Jesus as He cries out from the cross feels abandoned but the reality of this sacred moment is that the Father’s Love is truly present, though hidden, in the depth of his suffering planting seeds of new life that will burst forth into Resurrection.
Even though we may feel forgotten by God even as we try to follow Him and live by His ways, we can never be alone or abandoned because of the Crucified and Risen Jesus. In our darkest moments, in the midst of our deepest questions, Jesus cries out with us and God enters our desolation and begins to do in us what he has done in Jesus. Psalm 22 begins with that cry of abandonment and distress but it becomes a Psalm of faith and trust in God – “In you our fathers put their trust….In you they trusted and never in vain….Do not leave me alone in my distress; come close there is no one to help….my strength, make haste to help me!.... those who seek the Lord will praise him….may your hearts live for ever!…..All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord.”