It is a cold dish to be served when the rescue one depends on does not come in an hour of dire need. One can ponder the ER patient who has been mangled and the lidocaine is delayed. Or an unwanted divorce with the other spouse not wanting to give it a chance. The cliche can easily be said that, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” but comes far short of consoling.
But the message of the cross can give a sense of meaning whether the rescue comes or not. That message is comfort in the context ofmeaning in the atonement of Christ having practical application to our lives. We see in the cross God is not in the capricious punishing business at the cross or through all of salvation history. He had grace planned all along.
A strange comment is made by Jesus on the cross. He is supposed to be the best example of faith in God yet he says something that is counter-intuitive to modern, faithful thought.
THE FOURTH WORD
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
But there is more to these words than meets the eye. One may perceive that agony and sense of being detached from hope in seeing Jesus on the cross especially in light of how he spoke of the love between him and the Father. This appearance seems to be raised a notch with the words below that counter-intuitively show the fruit of the cross is comfort to the suffering. If we look further there is a calling inthe suffering.
Jesus is drawing from Psalm 22 and sparing enough breath barely for a shorthand reference to a broader context psalm that was well known then. This psalm referred to on the cross hits themes of all salvation history.
The crown of this psalm points to praise and thanksgiving that reverberates in the holy congregation. The declaration of the gospel hidden in that psalm is a template for God’s long-term faithfulness, provision to the hungry, universal worship, boldness to worship, resurrection and proclaiming his salvation. All of this would be clear to a scholar of the scriptures of that day if they listened with an open heart. And with that heart one would see the sacrifice as a seed and suffering as the ongoing nurturing of the Church that is to cooperate in all of the above.
Those themes are centered on Israel, and show God’s discipline, holiness and covenantal faithfulness to Israel. The line Jesus uses could sound like God is being called out of touch but the full context of the psalm is saying God initiates and has a plan.
On the responsiveness of God’s love there are highs and lows in the faith narrative of that psalm. There is cited personal brokenness yet personal consolation. In fact, there is faith with petition to God in suffering but prophetic details of the crucifixion.
Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots. (Psalms 22:16-18).
In the gospels we read that none of his bones were broken and in crucifixion his hands and feet were pierced. The intricate tapestry of God’s fulfillment points to how our initial and ongoing conversion should be understood that suffering is to be expected. Though we are not called to atone for our sins, there is a suffering natural to the Christian life which compliments what the atonement already gives. Appreciating his suffering is in the gospel of initial conversion, but embracing suffering is part of the ongoing conversion in taking up ones cross. Paul illustrated this beautifully.
Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11).
Finally, it should not be lost that this psalm points to the right worship that comes through suffering while pleading in the hour of ones death. But the end of that psalm is important: that of thanksgiving. And how that suffering is for something good as an outflow of the discipleship experience is the next part to be looked at.