Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Different Take on the Father's Forsaking: An Easter Perspective of the Cross.

Today is a great day to celebrate the Gift of Christ's Resurrection, and many people find themselves celebrating this day in church more than any other Sunday, even more than Christmas which doesn't always fall on a Sunday.  It's probably a given that Christ's death, burial, and resurrection story is shared or reflected upon in some part of your day, and as I think about this and as Christ's "last words" are shared in church...I remember an epiphany I had while reading the Bible about two years ago...When Jesus says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" at the crucifixion...what if Jesus was actually trying to show the religious leaders WHO he was one last time instead of the phrase being used to say that God turned his back on Jesus because Jesus carried our sin.  I see in the character of Jesus and in the loving act of God sending His Son in the first place that God would've been there in the last hours.  Read it and see what you think...

In the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the death of Jesus is recorded, and the gospels are from different perspectives and include details that when put together form a complete picture of the time Jesus spent on the actual cross.

The first part of Psalm 22:1 says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  The rest of Psalm 22 is a beautiful song inspired by God through David, and the psalm was sung to the tune of "The Doe of the Morning."  Within the same Psalm 22 is a messianic prophecy, and verses 15-18 and 30-31 especially stand out to impact me...
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of eveil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn- for he has done it.

John and Psalms are my favorite books in the Bible, so I'll start with the John's account of the crucifixion, the only one of the 12 apostles present at the crucifixion, gave for Jesus's last minutes alive on earth in human form.
John 19: 23-37
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.  This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 "Let's not tear it, " they said to one another.  "Let's decide by lot who will get it."  this happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."  So this what the soldiers did.
25. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26. When Jesus saw his mother, there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son,
27 and to the disciple, "here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that all was not completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.
30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation , and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.  Because the Jews did to want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.
33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.  He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.
36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken,"
37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

A summary of John's version of the crucifixion is not filled with the most details in relation to other gospels, but it has unique details.  First, I want to point that in verse 28 its says that Jesus knew that all was not completed and that all of the prophecy had not been fulfilled so he asked for a drink; the main point I want to bring out here that Jesus was aware of the prophecy during the crucifixion.  Also, the words in red are the actual words that Jesus uttered, so he gave John the sonship to his mother, Mary.  Jesus also asked for a drink and gave up his spirit right after announcing that he'd finished paying the price to reunite mankind with their Creator.


The book of Luke's written by Luke.  Luke also wrote the books of Acts, and the book of Luke is the longest gospel.  Luke was a Greek and a Gentile, making him the only non-Jew writer of the New Testament.  Luke's gospel is orderly and detailed and written by interviewing and listening to first hand accounts from apostles and other eye witnesses.  Luke's a companion to Paul, and it in Paul's Colossians that Luke was referred to as a physician.

Luke fills in some details of the crucifixion in Luke 23:26-49.  
*Luke states that a large group of followers including women followed him to be crucified, and they were wailing and mourning.  Jesus said to the followers, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me: weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed?' Then they will say to the mountains, 'Fall on us! And to the hills, cover us!' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31)  
*Jesus also said this about the men casting lots for his clothing, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  
*Jesus is mocked and told to save himself, and he is offered wine vinegar.  Luke also tells us that there is a written account above Jesus's head calling his the king of the Jews.  One of the criminals being crucified hurled insults at Jesus while the other asked Jesus to remember him to which Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
*From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness covered the whole land, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two.  Then, Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  As Jesus said this, he breathed his last breath.  Luke's account ends with a centurion saying that Jesus must've been a righteous man and the women and other followers continued watching from a distance.


Now, we get to Matthew and Mark's gospels which speak of Jesus speaking the words, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" which from as early as I can remember have always been preached to me that God turned his back on Jesus because God could not bear to look upon Jesus and the sin he bore, our sins.  Matthew's one of the 12 apostles who probably wasn't present at the crucifixion, and Mark, aka John Mark, wasn't one of the 12 apostles but was close with Peter and traveled with Paul on his first missionary experience.

Matthew 27:32-55
*Simon of Cyrene was forced to help Jesus carry his cross.  Jesus was offered wine with gall and after tasting it, he refused more.  Jesus's clothing was divided and lots were cast for it.  The guards put up a sign that called Jesus the king of the Jews, and two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus.  People passing by and others being crucified mocked and insulted Jesus calling on him to save himself.  
*Matthew 27: 41 says, "In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him
*In about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Matthew 27:46)
*Jesus was offered a sponge with wine vinegar on it, and after that Jesus cried out loud again (Matthew doesn't say what Jesus says), and at the same moment he spoke, the temple veil was torn in two and there was an earthquake.  The bodies of many holy people were raised back to life during the earthquake and appeared to many people.  A centurion said, "Surely this was the Son of God!"  Many women who had followed Jesus watched everything from far away.

Mark 15:21-40
*Simon was forced to carry Jesus's cross, and Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh but didn't want it.  Guards divided up the clothes Jesus wore and cast lots to see who would get them.  It was the third hour when they crucified him, and he had a sign accusing him of being the king of the Jews. Two robbers were crucified on either side of Jesus, and those who passed by hurled insults at Jesus.
*Mark 15:31 says, "In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves.
*There was darkness over the whole land from the sixth until the ninth hour, and at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
*Jesus was offered wine with vinegar, then with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and a centurion who heard his cry and saw how he died said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"  Some women followers were watching from a distance.

Matthew and Mark's accounts of the crucifixion are very similar, and what I want to point out specifically is that the chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders were there at the crucifixion.


Chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders would know the Old Testament almost word for word after studying it for years, so if Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross...they would've known the passage of scripture.  If they know the passage of scripture, then the chief priests, teachers of the law, and the elders would know the other verses within that passage and know that Jesus was telling them essentially, "I AM" which He had already done.  Jesus in all his misery would've reached out to even the very people who put him up on that cross because He was dying for them too.  If only one of those Jewish religious leaders turned to the truth in the last hours of Jesus's life, it would be worth Jesus using the strength to cry out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" so that they might make the connection.

I study the Bible and don't have a seminary degree.  I'm sure there will be many who disagree with this idea, including every single pastor of my youth and most of my adulthood...yet, the Jesus who loved us enough to die for us would've loved us enough from his agony to help us understand one more time even in the last minutes of His life.  According to Matthew and Mark's accounts of the crucifixion, after quoting Psalm 22:1, Jesus cried out again loudly, "Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit"and "It is finished," and that sounds to me that Jesus knew that His Father, God, was still listening to him and hadn't forsaken him at all.

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