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May 09th, 2021
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

In this study of words from the cross, we come to one that many find troubling. The concept of agony, and an account recorded only in Matthew and Mark, begins with darkness descending upon the land at midday. This was not an eclipse or a storm, but a supernatural event that lasted for three hours. Amos 8:9 had prophesied that “on that day” the sun would go down at noon and the whole land would be dark. 

We’re not told what happened during the three hours, but afterward Jesus cried out from the cross, “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34). In that interval, Jesus experienced the separation, abandonment and alienation that sin brings. Not for anything he had done, but according to the Cambridge Commentary, because of “the full horror of man’s sin”. The phrase abbreviated OMG has always bothered me; it seems especially flippant, trite, and sacrilegious in comparison to the prayer of agony expressed here. 

Again, a prophecy rings from centuries before: “But your wrongdoings have caused a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The character of sin cuts off everyone from the God who created us. 

A quick word about prophecy. Words spoken prior to an event are reflecting on something in God’s divine plan that has already happened. Prophets are not predicting, but are given foresight from God into the future so when the time comes, we will know it as God planned. 

Every Jewish person present that day would have recognized Jesus’ words were from Psalm 22:1, written by David more than a thousand years earlier. In the synagogues, a leader announced songs – psalms – by speaking the first few words of the passage, and many knew them by heart. These words introduce the Messianic Trilogy of Psalms 22, 23 and 24, with a glimpse of the promised deliver of the Jews. Psalm 22 deals with our past, and the role of our Messiah as suffering savior. Many of us are familiar with Psalm 23, which acknowledges him as a present shepherd; and Psalm 24 concludes with anticipation of the promised one as sovereign king. 

There was nothing in the life of David the Psalmist that paralleled Jesus – he was certainly not meek or mild. Yet God allowed him to project into the future with a glimpse of the One who would suffer for all people. It’s stunning to lay out this psalm in one column, and in a column beside it, see the New Testament comparison of agony and atonement. 

From Psalm 22: “Dogs have surrounded me; …they pierce my hands and my feet.” “All who see mock me; they hurl insults, … ‘He trusts in the Lord…let the Lord rescue him’” (verse 16). “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” (verse 15). “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment” (verses 17-18). “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint” (verse 14). 

From the New Testament accounts: “There they crucified him” (John 19:18). “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads… ‘He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him’” (Matthew 27:39, 43). “‘I am thirsty’” (John 19:28). “‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment’” (John 19:24 and Matthew 27:35). One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:34). 

The last verse, Psalm 22:31, reads, “They will come and will declare his righteousness to a people who will be born, that he has performed it.” A righteous people is possible throughout the centuries because of his atonement for their sins on the cross. 

Those present at Calvary had seen the inscription, heard Jesus’ previous words, and realized the prophecy was being fulfilled before their eyes. To some, the thief on another cross and the centurion who’d witnessed countless executions, the scene depicted the righteous Son of God bleeding and dying for their atonement. But surely others, those who knew the scriptures, were struck with dread as they realized their part in the prophecy’s fulfillment. 

By quoting words of Psalm 22 from the cross, Jesus said to us, this is no accident – I feel your pain – but also, the best is yet to come. Verse 26 promises, “The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!” He endured the agony, alienation and abandonment that sin brings between a sinner and God. But his cry of faith, My God, my God! revealed him clinging to the Father in the most profound act of faith in all history. 

The bottom line is that God has a plan. Even when we think he’s not there – he is. May these words from the cross help each of us take courage and trust. 

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