About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
Jesus’ cry from the cross reflects a very human lament, a cry that I have heard too many times through my years as a physician.
I have heard it from the mother whose second child just died from the same genetic disease … the pain of loss magnified by undeserved guilt.
I have heard it from people whose home has just been burned to the ground with seven of their children in it.
I have heard it every time that parents are informed of a leukemia or brain tumor diagnosis.
Jesus, I think, meets us most closely, most honestly and with raw vulnerability, right here at the time of his own death. In a way, he gives us permission to have doubts about God, to be angry with God. If God’s own son can have these feelings, we should not feel shame …or be shamed … when we have them ourselves.
It is also a reminder that, when God seems furthest away, he is often closest.
I think that “why have you forsaken me” is a very human question … but the wrong one. We struggle with the issue called “theodicy”, why does God allow evil in the world. And why should we choose to love and worship God in spite of evil?
But Genesis 1 tells us that there IS evil, and that it came about through choices that we humans made. The world is broken. It is by our own nature that it is broken. And that’s where we run into the sad fact and ultimate answer: it’s our nature, its “in our DNA”, and we can’t change our own nature. That’s not something we have the capability of doing. That’s not a choice we can make.
We often seem to want God to be a “celestial Santa Claus”, bringing us everything on our wish list and making life easy and wonderful. But that is not how reality is: we live in a broken and imperfect world. And that’s not how God operates. He wants us to love Him, believe in Him, trust Him and cherish Him in spite of evil. He wants us to choose him even when it isn’t easy and doesn’t seem sane.
The fact is that God sent Jesus, His own son, His own very substance, to live and suffer in all the ways that we all suffer. Jesus had to suffer mockery and bullying (if Jesus had had a social media page, he would have most certainly been cyber-bullied by the Pharisees). He suffered betrayal by one of his closest friends and disciples. He was chronically homeless and unemployed (by human standards). And here, from the cross, we hear Jesus at his most human, wondering where God is in all this mess. And yet Jesus will soon enter his glory and fulfill his purpose. He will be with his father, at his right hand.
And that brings us back to the fact that evil and broken-ness are in our nature, in our DNA, something we can’t change. WE may not be able to change that, but God sent someone who could, did, does and will… Jesus. When we choose to trust God, to have faith in His good will toward us IN SPITE of feeling forsaken, because of the fact of Jesus, we have taken the first step into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is our path to that kingdom. To stay on it, we need only to believe in him and follow him. Even when God seems to have abandoned us. We are never really forsaken
- Dr. Holly Hoffman