As is the mainstream tendency, I get buoyed with joy reading the Sermon on Mount, feeding of five thousand, dead Lazarus coming out and all the rest. But as the story continues and I reach the climax of the Gospel books, suddenly my emotions get heightened.. my excitement drops.. and there is that gush of enormous sadness. An ‘excruciating’ pain follows flipping through Gethsemane to the chilling moments on the cross. More so when I recall those words – My God…..my God!! Why have you forsaken me?
Martin Luther went into seclusion for hours trying to elucidate those heaven-piercing words said on the cross. He came out of his quietness still puzzled and not having grasped the mystery. It isn’t just baffling, but exceedingly agonizing to sense that overwhelming forsakenness, helplessness and separation from God that Christ experienced. Our generation that despair over their unwell pet and grief-stricken household, will never wail over those painful words that Christ roaringly cried before He gave up His spirit. Naturally, the Easter bonhomie eclipses those memories so we can bond over trivial conversations and have a resurrection experience of a gruesome kind.
All His life, Christ lived with close fellowship with God whom He called Abba. And here, he stands not as son calling father, but sinner calling a savior. And not once, but twice, My God…My God. Why did he have to? Isaac Watts beautifully blended the truth when he wrote that popular hymn Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed. How could we even get an inkling of that cry of forsakenness and the question ‘Why?’ We have a superficial and fleeting faith that likes to raise our hands and get caught up in that emotional trance of worship without ever knowing what innard fellowship really means and what it costed once. We sing our lies, shake our hips and walk out that door to satiate our physical and flippant soulish pleasures. Contemporary Christianity and the dominant beliefs out-and-out contradict those of Christ and the early Church. For them, it was an aura of fear, deep reverence, humility, often pained at their own sins and challenged to consider the needs of others than their own.
A born again experience is one that does not paint an outward joy that’s always so charming and filled with laughter and excitement with raising hands and shouting amens. Toss him to the fiery sea, and you’ll see the shallow and cosmetic faith. True faith should lead us to being sober-minded, watchful, humble and often on our knees. If the joy that you claim to have came with inexpressible and gruesome cries of forsakenness and horrifying death, shouldn’t it rather lead us to lament, pain and deeper maturity? Shouldn’t it put us to shame and evaluate our lifestyle?
In Paul’s last letter before his execution, he warned Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their EARS TICKLED, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths”. So much of ear-tickling stuffs have blinded our eyes and has led us into routine amusement, so we would just do that, live a cross-less life, but have a FORM of godliness that costs nothing and is worth nothing. The ongoing hypocrisy is the proof.
I often think of those difficult days when I ceded my right to better things in life..was challenged by the cross to go on journeys never planned. Abandoned many monetary pursuits…and at hard pressing times it was the very cry Why Have you Forsaken Me? It was even more as I returned back here and was vanquished…crying often the words of forsakenness. An overstatement of highest degree…mine was never the saintly cry of Him. I had one fully acknowledging my flaws, mistakes, sins and feebleness.
Through all that, I have grown to see how often God’s answers to our prayers, is not by fulfilling all our selfish wishes and whimsies like the Genie, but not answering in His wisdom. The deep silence that we often misread. That particularly to those He dearly loves…allowing them to catch a glimpse of His pain and sorrow and share an ounce of it. The enormity of God’s silence can lead us through deeper reflection and maturity. That silence is profound and cannot come through fulfillment.
Every great saint in the Scripture has had such an experience of loud wailing. And it is through their desolation, imprisonment, abandonment, solitariness and powerlessness that they were just one step away from being drawn closer to God. Not the shallow devotion that is just skin deep and external…but one that takes the words seriously to “turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me“. This journey is not one that miraculously provides for everything you ever wanted….the road that Jesus and the early disciples took is rather one that will shake the foundations of your contentment, trouble your security and inspire you to take up least rewarding tasks.
A life impacted by the cross, should and will cry out more than once Why Have You Forsaken Me? But the story doesn’t end there. That was only a beginning. A new chapter begins with the words of hope – He Has Risen!