Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The suffering servant

This week's OT readings center around Isaiah's suffering servant passages. On Sunday the Psalm was 22, which opens "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

Matthew's passion narrative includes this phrase (in 27:46), when Jesus cries it out at about the ninth hour.

The phrase bothered me coming from His mouth. How could God abandon Him?

He couldn't.

First off, God is love, and He is Jesus' Father. He would never forsake Him. He never abandons us, let alone His own son. We only think He does, and Jesus would never be so lacking in understanding and trust.

But more importantly, God -couldn't- abandon Jesus, because Jesus -IS- God.

It would not be possible for God to abandon Himself. When one person of the Trinity is there, all three are present.

So the concept of abandonment was not possible, nor logical, nor explicable. And yet there Jesus is saying it, in black and white.

But a few years ago I found the explanation.

In Jesus' day, the psalms were sung by good Jewish families, and Psalms were referred to by stating their first line. So when Jesus hung on the cross and and said "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" He was not asking the Father a question. He was reminding those on the ground below Him of Psalm 22.

Psalm 22 is a prophecy of His death. But it ends exultant in the triumph of His ultimate victory.

He was telling those who loved Him that that the scriptures were being fulfilled, but that Easter was coming and not to be afraid.

The explanation made sense. I was happy.

And then a few days ago, as I thought further about this around the supper table, it occurred to me that Jesus doesn't use the word God when communicating to the other persons of the Trinity. He refers to the Father, and to the Spirit, but not to "God".

So that further cemented it for me.

It is good when confusing things get cleared up...


Pranayama mama said...

now i'm confused. i thought he was forsaken. that he actually took the wrath for us. that he who knew no sin paid the ultimate price for us. yes, he was quoting psalm 22 but not for show. he was plunged into despair and hell.

Ike said...

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In light of what we know about the impeccable nature of the Son of God and His perfect fellowship with the Father, it is difficult to comprehend Christ’s words, yet in them, the meaning of the Cross is laid bare, and we find the reason for which Christ died. The fact that His words are also recorded in the original Hebrew tongue tells us something of their great importance. The author did not want us to misunderstand or to miss a thing!

In these words, Jesus is not only crying out to God, but as the consummate teacher, He is also directing His onlookers and all future readers to one of the most important Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament - Psalm 22.

To obtain the salvation of His people, Christ not only suffered the terrifying abandonment of God, but He drank down the bitter cup of God’s wrath and died a bloody death in the place of His people. Only then could divine justice be satisfied, the wrath of God be appeased, and reconciliation be made possible.

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...


I think it is both/and rather than either/or. Sort of. He did of course suffer gruesomely, and it was no show. But I don't think he despaired. I think he did it willingly, for the joy that lay before him, not despairingly.

And like us, he was never, ever forsaken.

Oh death, where is your sting?