Several years ago Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ raised awareness of the brutality of Good
Friday. The scourging scenes earned the
film an R rating. Veteran movie goers
who had been conditioned by decades of violence and gore in the movies
nonetheless winced, shuddered, and sometimes looked away due to the realism
that everyone knew was based on the truth.
No one had ever come close to reenacting the viciousness of the attacks
on Christ like that film.
Yet there was something missing. An intangible the Gospels identified that
couldn’t really be fleshed out and delved into for the big screen. I’m talking about the absolute sense of
abandonment that Jesus felt that day. It
began in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was being arrested. Matthew writes a very simple statement: “Then
all the disciples left him and fled” (26:56).
The trials begin. Then the
beatings, scourging, and crucifixion.
Throughout it all, the only one who seems to attempt to stand by Jesus
is Pilate as he finds no guilt in Him and tries to release Him. Sadly, the crowd chooses Barabbas over Jesus
and even Pilate abandons Him as he symbolically washes his hands of the matter
and “delivered him to be crucified” (27:26).
Finally, the abandonment of Christ reaches its apex as the crucified Son
of God cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
If anyone knew the Scriptures it was Jesus. Most know that His question of forsakenness
was a direct quote from the twenty-second Psalm. Surely Jesus knew all the Psalms. Surely He was familiar with Psalm 27:9 that
says, “Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you
who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!”
And then there is Psalm 37:25, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken…” No movie can capture the crushing spiritual
weight of sorrow and horror Jesus must have felt as He did far more than bear
the sins of the world. As Paul would say
in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake, he [God the Father] made him [Jesus the
Son] to be sin who knew no sin…” Jesus
became the living embodiment of sin thus fulfilling Moses’ serpent on the pole
(Numbers 21:8-9). And He was, in fact,
abandoned by God which is exactly what the Scriptures mean when they say “the
wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Some of us have experienced varying levels of abandonment in
life. Some have experienced abandonment
by parents, children, spouses, and/or friends.
It hurts and here is why. To be
abandoned and forsaken means the lack of three things that we all desperately
want and need. The first is presence. Abandonment means someone is no longer
around. And it is not because there was
no choice. It’s different from those we
love who die. They didn’t choose to
leave us and we didn’t want them to.
Abandonment means a choice was made.
The pain of someone we love choosing to absent themselves from our lives
is indescribable. You feel like trash
that has been put out at the curb.
The second thing that being abandoned and forsaken makes us
lack is provision. Some need was being provided for with that
person in our lives. And now we are
without it. Most of the time there is no
viable substitute for that need at hand either.
We are simply going to have to learn to do without it. That usually implies suffering.
Third and lastly, when we are abandoned we lack protection. We are exposed and that weakness makes us a
target like the predators that pursue the lame or the young. Our emotions are raw from being abandoned and
we are unprotected from those who seek to take advantage of us. There is strength in numbers and now we are
alone. Being forsaken and abandoned
means we are on our own and cannot count on help.
So, in addition to the unimaginable physical brutality of
Good Friday Jesus was forced to deal with the absolute horror of being without
the Presence of His Father that He had known forever. Never had there been a single moment in
eternity when the Son of God had been without the abiding Presence of the
Father and the Spirit. Without the other
members of the Godhead there would be no provision of any kind of assurance
that everything or anything would work out.
No angels to minister. No voice
of affirmation and encouragement as there had been at the Jordan River and the
Mount of Transfiguration. And there
would be no protection. Not only from
the people who wished to do Him harm but the agents of evil who lurked and
waited for Him in darkness.
He stood before three tribunals without an advocate. He was beaten and scourged mercilessly
without provision for His pain. No voice
from Heaven descended upon Calvary and no Dove lighted on the Cross of
suffering and shame. No angels came to
His rescue as the nails were driven into His hands and feet. Jesus was truly alone. Without a Friend anywhere in the entire universe.
This is what it means to perish. And this is why He did it:
For God so
loved the world,
gave His only Son that
believes in Him should
but have eternal life.
Ray Rooney, Jr.