Today we enter into the fourth week of Lent
and we consider Jesus’ fourth statement from the cross.
Word of Lament:
At 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?”
Lament: to feel and express sorrow, grief, or regret
a formal expression of mourning
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? Psalm 22:1
When Jewish boys were six years old, they entered school at the local synagogue. On the first day of school, the rabbi would take a generous amount of honey and put it on each of the boys’ slates. Then the rabbi would tell the boys to lick it off as he quoted from Psalm 119, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth.”
The students’ first association with scripture was sweet, helping them understand that nothing was more enjoyable as receiving and tasting the Word of God. By age ten, Jewish boys memorized the entire Torah (the first five books of the Bible). By age 14, they had memorized the rest of the Old Testament.
It’s not surprising that Jesus quoted a verse from Psalm 22 when He cried out on the cross. Jesus often referenced Old Testament passages that he had memorized as a boy. Among Jewish teachers, it was common to quote part of a scripture passage with the full context in mind since everyone knew the rest by heart. So although it sounded as if Jesus had abandoned hope as He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, Psalm 22 in its entirety was a song of rescue and victory.
It should bring us comfort to know that Jesus asked the same question we do when faced with great suffering and grief: why? But it helps to know that Psalm 22 ends differently than it begins. “For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Ps. 22:24)
Lord, in those difficult days when it seems You are far away and we feel abandoned, remind us again that Jesus understands. Help us to turn to the sweet words of scripture for comfort when we are tempted to question Your goodness.