On Good Friday, Jesus experienced the darkness and pain of God -forsakenness, as he entered the depths of the reality of a sin-drenched world. How can this inform our experience of living in a Good Friday World?
This is arguably the most puzzling statement in Bible. Jesus is God incarnate, but here Jesus experiences God’s absence. This puzzling cry expresses the most shocking, paradoxical, and beautiful truth ever revealed from heaven. Jesus’ experience of God-forsakenness expresses the unsurpassable extreme lengths God was willing to go to rescue us and the whole creation from destruction. The unsurpassable distance to which God was willing to go reveals the unsurpassable perfection of the love that God is and the love God has for each and every one of us.
On Good Friday, Jesus bore our sin and the God-forsakenness of our sin from the inside to the point that he is saying, “My God my God, WHY?” On Good Friday, the Son who has throughout eternity experienced only perfect loving unity with the Father and Spirit, experienced the “God-forsaken curse” intrinsic to all sin.
This was what Good Friday is all about: God fully entered into our sin and fully experienced the God-forsakenness that accompanies all sin.
In many Scripture passages, we read about how God’s people have frequently felt forsaken by God, for instance, Psalm 13:1-2 and Psalm 44:23-26. In these Old Testament passages, they were looking forward to a time when God’s good character would finally be vindicated, when they no longer experienced the absence of God.
In the New Testament, Paul refers to the current world as “the present darkness” and “this dark age.” We live in a time when suffering and injustice still obscure the goodness of God. We ask, “Why do unjust and evil people seem to have the upper hand?” It a Good Friday world, for God has not yet set the world right.
This is captured so well by Eli Weisel in his haunting book Night, where he chronicles his experience in a Nazi concentration camp where he was forced to watch the hanging of a young child. Weisel reports:
“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked. ..
For more than half an hour [the child in the noose] stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows. . . .”
-Eli Wiesel, Night
Wiesel was saying that the process of watching this young innocent boy slowly suffocate was also a process of witnessing his faith in God get slowly suffocated. The only thing that can be said in the face of such a horror is that this is the complete absence of God, goodness, decency and hope.
Such horrors can be experienced on many levels, both globally and personally. The reality of the Good Friday world can hit us and rip us apart. In this reality, we need to remember two things. First, Jesus honestly expressed what he was experiencing. When he hung on the cross, he truly felt the darkness of God-forsakenness. He embraced it. So many times today we feel the pressure to ignore the darkness, to act like it is not present. We have to learn to let it be as bad, painful, upsetting, and unsettling as it is. We need to give ourselves permission to grieve and meet with God who endured the greatest darkness ever.
Secondly, we must remember that however dark the night, know that God is with you. Though Jesus felt forsaken, the truth is that God had never left him. God was on the inside of Jesus’ feeling of God-forsakenness. So too, you may feel forsaken and lack the ability to see where God is. You may feel as if God is nowhere to be seen. Know that, however you feel and whatever you think you see, God is with you.
We live a dark Good Friday world, but we can hope because God entered into that darkness, into the depths of our reality, and conquered death and the grave.
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