This is the Good Friday meditation from my Lent book. May it provoke you to think about Jesus and what he's done for you on this Good Friday.
READING :: Matthew 27:32-53 “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Complexity and mystery are at their peak in this moment where God is crucified, fully present and hanging on a tree, but at the same time absent, turning His face from the sin being assumed by Jesus. In the middle of Jesus’ darkest moment—paradoxically when He was glorified or lifted the highest—He leans into the Psalms to express what He is feeling, namely Psalm 22.
In the middle of one of the hardest times in my life, when it seemed like my world was imploding and the people I called family had abandoned me, I too leaned into the Psalms and found one that lamented with me, that asked the questions I was asking and sought God in a way I was trying to seek Him.
The Psalm I read begs the question, “What are the right sacrifices?” Psalm 22, the Psalm Jesus had in mind, asks for mercy, deliverance and vindication as many of them do. The Psalmist asks God to lead as He had in the past, even though it seemed like He might not be anywhere to be found.
I leaned into these songs and prayers because they echoed what my soul felt, what I was longing for, and they resonated with my circumstances.
In the middle of Jesus’ darkest moment, He leans into Psalm 22:
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Why are you so far from helping me?
Jesus is asking God, with an honest gasp and familiar prayer from the scriptures, “Father God, where are you?”
Reread verses 50-53. “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”
Kind of wild, right?
It’s a cosmic moment. All has gone dark, as if everything, if only for these few moments, has disappeared and in its reemergence, all of history has shifted. Something is different. There is a new nexus to all of human history. Everything that happened before, we now know, wasn’t just linear history but a string of moments leading up to this moment. Everything that will happen after this is situated in reference to this moment.
Human history no longer has a beginning and an end. It has a middle.
History has been reoriented and its new center is the cross of Christ.
And as dark as this moment is, we find ourselves wanting to call it good news and celebrate this dark day as Good Friday. We live in this tension and embrace it as mystery.
It’s in this central moment in human history that we find Jesus leaning into the Psalms, wondering where the father has gone, revealing to us his humanity. It’s also in this central moment that we find our greatest fear and our greatest hope. Our greatest fear is that God has abandoned us, if He was ever there in the first place. Our greatest hope is that this isn’t the end of the story for Jesus or for us—that in suffering there is hope, that this is really just a new beginning of sorts.
So where was God while Jesus was hanging on the cross?
Will Willimon says, “It’s on the cross where we see the complexity of the way that this God saves us, the curious way in which God is with us.”
God didn’t save Jesus from the cross, but He schemed of a way to make this event one that nobody would ever forget. God schemed of a way to subvert the message of this horrific event of the cross, this political statement that was being made, and proclaim a different statement of hope and victory.
God is not like humans. He does things very differently than we would want him to do things.
Willimon also says, “We ask Jesus to stand up and act like God and he just hangs there.”
God chooses not to use coercion but love, service and self-sacrifice, because they are His way.
Think about your greatest moment of darkness. Whether you realized it or not, God was scheming of a way to subvert the message of despair being proclaimed in your life and circumstances and to proclaim hope. He always schemes and dreams of ways to bring light out of our darkness, hope out of our despair, good news from all the bad news we find ourselves living.
On all the Fridays of our lives, when with Jesus we want to say, “God, where are you?” maybe He is just hanging there, present and absent all at the same time, waiting for the subversion of your story and ultimately His story to be proclaimed. After all, Sunday isn’t far away.
What is your cross, your Good Friday? Have you forgotten that Sunday is coming?