My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not human,
scorned by others and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they sneer at me; they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they bound my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it. (New Revised Standard Version)
It’s one thing to be alone because of other’s mocking, yelling, spitting at you, even physically beating you; that, in and of itself, is terribly traumatic. Yet, it’s quite another thing altogether to feel forsaken by one’s God, to experience a deafening divine silence amidst all the human commotion.
There are levels of suffering – and physical suffering is the least of our agony; the experiences of mental, emotional – and I insist, spiritual suffering – is worse than a hundred kidney stones.
“Suffering” is a word many would like to avoid. Simply seeing or hearing the word might make us cringe. Suffering? No thanks. I’ll pass. Yet, something inside us instinctively knows we cannot get around it. Everyone suffers in some way; it’s endemic to the human condition.
Sometimes, maybe even most times, we are not immediately relieved of suffering because it is meant to have a redemptive purpose to it – that somehow, some way, the awful affliction shall result in eventual blessing to either oneself, another, or perhaps to many.
Miracles are miracles not because they fall from heaven with no connection to what’s happening on this earth. No, miracles occur because of suffering, because something gut-wrenching is happening, because someone or many people are tragically hurt.
Jesus intimately knows suffering, first hand. And he knows what suffering can produce: the deliverance of many.
For Christians everywhere, today is “Good” not because of the pain experienced but because the crucifixion of Jesus Christ means the redemption of the world.
On this Good Friday, followers of Jesus remember and commemorate the events that led up to the cross; unpack those events and interpret them with profound meaning and significance; and worship Jesus with heartfelt gratitude because of the redeeming work of the cross.
It is today that Christians remember the last words of Christ, and recognize the significant impact his death had on the immediate persons around him. Believers also contemplate the lasting results of that singular death as an atoning sacrifice; perfect love; reconciliation between God and humanity; victory over evil; and the redemption of all creation.
For believers, there’s the recognition that something deeply impactful is happening in the egregious suffering of Jesus. Therefore, we acknowledge and remember the anguish of Christ; and also what that horrible torment accomplished.
With such profound meaning, one would think that Good Friday is a hugely observed day for all Christians in every tradition. Yet, for a chunk of churches and Christians, it is not. The cross is not a popular subject. It could be because neither Christian nor non-Christian wants to ponder something so tragically bloody and sad.
Indeed, as the Apostle Paul has said, the cross of Christ is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23)
A personalized religion which leaves the cross out of the picture (too much violence and sacrifice) might seem appealing, yet will only leave us bereft of the communion of the saints both past and present. Consider the confessional witness of the Church:
Christ suffered “in both body and soul – in such a way that when he sensed the horrible punishment required by our sins ‘his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.’ He cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, we rightly say with the Apostle Paul that we know nothing ‘except Jesus Christ, and him crucified;’ we ‘regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.’ We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever.”Belgic Confession, Article 21
And let us consider further the New Testament witness:
“Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, and bear the abuse he endured.” (Hebrews 13:12-13, NIV)
“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14, NRSV)
The extent of Good Friday goes far beyond a day on the calendar; it is the fulcrum upon which all of Christianity hinges.
Because Christ suffered, our suffering has meaning. Each situation of trauma; every case of disease; all suffering, abuse, and hardship makes sense, in the Christian tradition, when they are viewed in solidarity with the cross of Jesus Christ.
So, today, let Christians everywhere contemplate the cross, observe the salvation accomplished through Christ’s death, and offer prayers and petitions for those who need deliverance from the power of evil.