Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Devotional Day 7: Never Forsaken

Matthew 27: 45-46:
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

I saw a story on video the other day about a woman who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11.  She recounted the horror of the day and trying to come to terms with it all.  What was most striking to me was how she interpreted her story spiritually.  Instead of considering what a great miracle it was to have survived, she came to the conclusion that her life was spared because God didn't want her in heaven.

This is what it means to feel forsaken.

I had a similar conversation with a friend of mine in college who was gay but really loved God.  He thought because of his struggles with temptation that God had given up on him.

As I talk with more and more people I find that most often it isn't an issue of whether people believe in God, but whether they think that God believes in them.  A lot of people feel forsaken by God because of life's circumstances . . . or the presence of cruel people in their lives . . . or unanswered prayers.  Life has become a living hell.  Literally.  Hell being the absence of God - living without Him or His presence.  Desperately wanting it but never feeling it.  It is important to remind people who feel forsaken that God has already gone through hell so we don't have to.

There is only one who was forsaken by God - His only Son.  

It all starts on the night Jesus is betrayed by Judas.  The Gospel writers use a word - paradidonai - which means 'betrayed' or 'handed over.'  On that night Jesus prays to God and there is no answer to His prayer, He is betrayed into sinful hands.  Jurgen Moltman, a respected theologian, says this is the point in which God turns His back on His only Son.  There is a separation between the Father and the Son . . . a rift that eventually leads to a 'death in God.'  

In fact, Paul uses the same word in his letter to the Galatians- paradidonai (betray, hand over) - when talking about how God turned away from Jesus.  When we think of Jesus going to the cross we think of the pain that He endured from the beatings, whipping and crucifixion.  We seldom think of the psychological torture of having your Daddy turn His back on you and punish you for the sin of the world.  The one who had no sin paid the debt of those who sinned.  We forget that Jesus not only endured the penalty for my sin but also endured separation from God in my place.  He was forsaken so I never have to be.

You can feel the pain of the distance of God in Jesus' words on the cross: "why have you forsaken me?"

He is quoting a song.  Like we sometimes do when we share something on Twitter or Facebook  - posting a lyric from a song that fits our mood . . . Jesus is quoting from one of His favorite songs.  You can read the lyrics - it is Psalm 22.  The whole of that Psalm is really spooky as it describes crucifixion precisely (even though it was written hundreds of years before crucifixion was 'invented').  Essentially Jesus is experiencing a complete cut-off from God.  It is not because He has to, it is because He wants to . . . so you never have to be in that place. 

The suffering on the cross is not just religious drama.  It has a point.  Jesus went to the depths of suffering so that you don't have to.  If this is you, you need to stop living the lie that God has forsaken you.  You may feel that way and even have good reason to, but it doesn't make it true.  The truth is that you are deeply loved by a God that created you to live in and freely pass on the truth that God is for us, not against us.  

Listen to these nuggets from Romans 8:

            If God is for us, who can be against us?  . . .  
                      Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? . . .
                    Who then is the one who condemns? 
                                          No one. 
                Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life
              is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 
             Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 

The answer is the same:

No One.

So why are you?

If you or a friend of yours feels like God has given up on them, that is a lie. 

Lies sometimes cloak themselves as feelings . . . live in the truth, not the lies.  Send this to someone that needs to hear it.  The powerful truth of Easter is that it is about our resurrection someday as well as our coming out of the tomb now - starting living again in the love of God.  

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