Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Tre Ore

Good Friday Tre Ore
Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan
April 6, 2012

Text: Matt. 27:45-46: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (ESV).
            “Only the damned in hell really understand what it means to be forsaken by God.”[1]  We sometimes speak of God-forsaken places, and sometimes we ourselves feel God-forsaken in our guilt or suffering.  And while that feeling should be taken very seriously (and if you feel that way, go to your pastor!), the reality of the matter is quite different.  God has not forsaken you.  Anything but.  In fact, that’s the point of what Jesus here says in our text as He prays Psalm 22 from the cross.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Jesus was forsaken by the Father, that you never be forsaken by the Father.  To be forsaken by God is the punishment of sin.  It’s the definition of hell.  We can’t even imagine what it is to be forsaken by God, to totally lack the good He provides to us even when we’re suffering, even when we don’t recognize it.  What would it be like to have absolutely no good?  It would be hell.  God-forsaken hell.  And that’s what Jesus suffers on the cross.  He suffers it in your place.  He’s your substitute.  He is forsaken by God so that God will never forsake you.
            The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the intersection of God’s love and justice.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  He loves His creation.  He loves you.  He does not desire the death of the sinner, but that he turn from his evil way and live (Ez. 33:11).  And yet, there is your sin.  It must be dealt with.  Because God is just.  God cannot simply sweep our sin under the rug as if it never happened.  He is not a kindly grandfather who winks at the transgressions of his mischievous grandchildren.  He cannot ignore sin.  He hates sin.  What would we call a judge who lets murderers off the hook?  We would call that judge unjust.  “But they said they were sorry.  They said they’d never do it again.”  It doesn’t matter.  Murder cannot be ignored.  In the same way, if God ignored our sin, He would be an unjust God.  So what to do with it?  How does God reconcile His love and His justice?  From eternity, divine wisdom conceived a solution.  “I will send my Son.  I will send my beloved.  I will send Him to take on their flesh, to take their place, to suffer their punishment.  I will deal with their sin there, in His flesh, on His cross, and in this way, I will make the unlovable loved.  I will forsake Him.  Thus I will never forsake them.”  So our Lord Jesus, in willing obedience to the Father, takes your sin into Himself and takes up your cross to make the payment.  If you are ever tempted to think that you are God-forsaken, look at a crucifix.  Grasp it in your hand and say to yourself, “God can never forsake me.  For my Lord Jesus Christ has been forsaken by God in my place.  God poured out His justice on my Savior.  His wrath is spent.  There is no punishment left, for Christ has taken it all.  And He has purchased me for God with His own blood.  I belong to Him.”
            But perhaps you’ve suffered profound afflictions of body and soul.  What about that?  If suffering is not God forsaking you, then what is it?  Believe it or not, suffering is God’s blessing to you, a gift given in love.  Because in suffering, God breaks all your idols in pieces, all the things that you fear, love, and trust above Him.  He will have you wholly to Himself.  He will not share you with other gods.  So He drives you to despair of yourself and all other resources.  He drives you to Himself alone for help and salvation.  He drives you to prayer.  He drives you to cast your burdens upon Him, even to pray the prayer our Lord here prays from the cross, Psalm 22, only now to pray it as one who is in Christ, who is not forsaken because Christ was forsaken in your place, to pray it as one who can say in Christ, “My God, my God,” the prayer of faith.  God lays upon you the precious and holy cross, and He promises to use it for your good.  God works great good even out of great evil.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  Now, it is true, in many cases you won’t be given to know in this earthly life what that good is that God is accomplishing in your suffering.  It is a divine mystery beyond investigation.  You live by faith, not by sight.  You simply hold here to His promise.  Your suffering is not a punishment for your sin.  The Lord Jesus already took care of that on His cross.  Christ was forsaken for you.  Therefore God will never forsake you.  He will work all things for your good.
            Just as He worked all things for your good in the suffering and death of His dear Son, Jesus Christ.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  God forsook Jesus to reconcile His love for you and His justice against your sin, that He might be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).  That is to say, God forsook Jesus so that you can be absolutely certain of this: God will never forsake you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[1] Harry Shiley, The Solemn Hours of Lent (Milwaukee: Northwestern, 1956) p. 56.


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