The following devotion comes from On Giving Advice to God by Daniel Deutschlander and it is my suggestion to read it on Good Friday. God bless your holy week!
Mark 15:34 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And now, there it is! It is the most anguished cry possible. It is the most horrible suffering – suffering beyond imagination. Note it well!
Jesus calls out, saying, “My God.” He does not address him as Father this time as he had before and will again later. For now, the loving bond has been shattered. But still God remains God – his God to whom he owes perfect love and uncomplaining obedience. Any curse at his own treatment by God, any complaint that it just isn’t fair would be rebellion, would be sin.
And he will not rebel. He will not complain. Instead, he cries out the first verse of Psalm 22, to let us know just exactly what is happening here. He is fulfilling the Scriptures. But there is nothing mechanical about that. Oh, no, not that. Instead, we hear in these words from the cross the most profound mystery mingled with the most horrible suffering. It is a mystery how God can abandon God when the two persons of the Trinity are on in essence. It is a mystery altogether beyond and above us how both Father and Son could agree to and will this horror of the Son being forsaken by the Father. The Father loved the Son of his own essence. The Son loved the Father and did so in his human nature every moment consciously, yes, consciously; and he obeyed him and submitted perfectly to God’s law – did so lovingly, eagerly, most happily. Not a thought, not a work, not a deed ever had the slightest fault or flaw.
But now, there it is: He is abandoned by the God who had loved him and whom he had loved and served perfectly. He is, in fact, suffering the torments of hell and suffering them in a worse way than anyone will ever suffer them. To be abandoned by God, to lose all of his mercy and kindness – that is the essence of hell. And that is horrible indeed. But at least those in hell have to admit that they deserve every bit of it. Not so for Jesus. He deserves not one shred of it. More than that, those in hell suffer only for their own sins and unbelief. But Jesus in this anguish suffers not just innocently; he suffers for the sin of the whole world – all of it is pressed on him, and he cries out in the agony of that dread punishment from my God! He is, as he says in the psalm, like a worm on a hook, crushed on the outside and ripped apart within.
We will never exhaust the absolute nature of his suffering in this anguished cry. For the moment, however, we have one more thing to notice. His cry is in the form of a question. Why a question? Doesn’t he know why he suffers thus? Of course he knows; he had expressed the reason for it in all the prophecies of the Old Testament and in all that he had said about his coming passion during the three years of his earthly ministry. As with so many of the questions that God asks, beginning with the questions to Adam and Eve in the garden, God is not looking for information. And so Jesus here is waiting not for an answer from God. He is waiting for an answer from you, from me.
What, then, will we answer him in this hour so dreadful, so full of agony and mystery? The answer can only be this; I know, Lord Jesus, I know why you have been abandoned. It is because your Father loves me and does not want me to perish forever in hell as I deserve. I know, Lord Jesus, I know why you have been abandoned. It is because you loved me before the foundation of the world, and you love me still in this dead hour as you endure the torments of hell itself. I know, Lord Jesus, I know why you have been abandoned. It is because the Holy Spirit too loves me, even me, and he has planned to proclaim that love in the Word and sacraments in such a powerful way that I will believe it. I know, Lord Jesus, I know why you have been abandoned. It so that the Holy Trinity might love me until death and beyond. It is so that the debt I owe and which I in a thousand hells could never pay would be paid for in full. It is so that the filth of all my sins would be washed in the blood of this sacrificial Lamb who has come to take away the sin of the world.
Even with the little that I can understand of the terror of this cry from the cross, I might be tempted to blurt out, No, No, Lord Jesus! Don’t do it! Come down from the cross. You merit it not; I merit it all. But no, I won’t blurt that out. Rather, I put my hand over my mouth and whisper (for who would dare to say such a thing out loud?!): Yes, Lord Jesus! Suffer thus! Suffer the torments of the damned. Suffer it all! Suffer it for me so that I will not have to. And I, for my part, will eagerly and thankfully and, yes, joyfully receive all the benefit. I claim no merit. I worship and adore you for this: you willed and wanted to suffer for me and are pleased when the message of the cross brings me to trust in your perfect, all-sufficient, and saving merit. Here indeed is miracle upon miracle, wonder multiplied by wonder, amazement that knows no bounds: God is abandoned by God. God wills it for God and does it all for me, and because of the power of the Word, I believe it; I receive it. I trust it all in accord with his saving purpose, his redeeming love for me, his rule over time and tide that I might have his promise now and eternally.