Written by Stephanie Kimec Parker, Pastor of the Gathering at Scott Memorial, Virginia Beach, VA
In Matthew 26, after Jesus had been on the cross for 3 hours, Jesus cried out with a loud voice “Eli, Eli Lema Sabbach thani” – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”
This is one of the moments in the Gospels when Jesus is very relatable. How many times have we done the same, cried out to God, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This pandemic has stretched all of us to our limits. I am learning my breaking point, sometimes after I have reached it. The honest cries to God have grown as we all try to navigate life in new ways together. We are not alone. The Bible is full of beautiful stories of people who have cried the same to God, allowing us to know it is ok to be raw and honest with God.
I grew up thinking we could only bring our best to God, that God did not want to hear our complaints but only our praises. This passage shows that God wants to know all of us, the parts that praise and the raw parts that cry out in the middle of despair. God can handle all of us, the parts we put on display and the parts we hide from ourselves until they burst out.
The first readers of Matthew’s gospel would have known that Jesus prayed the entirety of Psalm 22. It changes how we understand Jesus’ cry when we read the entire psalm and imagine Jesus reciting it on the cross. Though this psalm starts out in despair, it does not stay there. The psalm also proclaims God’s goodness and faithfulness. Jesus did not stay in the place of despair. He expressed his despair and he continued through the psalm. Jesus knew that God did not hide, but heard his cries.
Jesus models for us faithfulness, even on a cross. We don’t know what Jesus was experiencing in those final moments of his life. He may have felt abandoned by all. In those final moments of his life, he prayed Psalm 22, a psalm that proclaims God’s holiness even when we do not hear an answer from God.
Psalm 22 ends with proclaiming God’s faithfulness and goodness. One day all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn towards the Lord. Jesus knew that one day God’s kingdom would fully reign. One day Christ will return and all will be restored. One day God will dwell among us. As the Psalmist wrote, I shall live for him.