Sunday, April 8, 2012

O Cross That Liftest Up My Head

--

If I write the words, "On a hill far away . . . " what comes to mind?

What about, "When peace like a river . . . ?"

Try this one, "Mine eyes have seen the glory . . . "

Chances are, at least for many of you, these line fragments will start a cascade of words and mental images that follow because the hymns they belong to are engraved deep in your hearts from much repetition. For those of us who grew up in churches where hymns were sung, these phrases are like keys that unlock whole worlds within them; we can scarcely hear the opening phrase without the rest of the hymn springing to life in our memories.

Jesus may have been doing the very same thing in this familiar passage:

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?').”  Matthew 27:45-46

Surrounding the cross, Jewish hearts must have brightened with recognition--where had they heard that before? Of course!

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
   Why are you so far from saving me, 
   so far from my cries of anguish?" 

Could it be that instead of accusing His Father of leaving Him, Jesus was giving the Jews at the foot of the cross the first line of Psalm 22, knowing that the rest of the Psalm would tumble through their minds like a brook rushing down a mountain in springtime? What does the rest of Psalm 22 say? I encourage you to go read it for yourself--contained within its words penned by David are some of the most detailed and accurate descriptions from the Old Testament of exact events that happened to Jesus. Could it be that Jesus was calling to mind that particular Psalm to show them that He was fulfilling prophecy in their presence?

There is another question, a dark and foreboding question that comes to mind.

Did God really abandon His beloved Son when His suffering was deepest? Did He really leave Jesus to suffer alone?

The traditional view goes something like this: When the sin of the world was laid on Jesus for Him to take our punishment, God, because of His holiness, could not look on Jesus and had to turn His face away, leaving Jesus forsaken and alone. Perhaps, of all the horrors Jesus suffered that day, this was what hurt Him the most.

I no longer hold the traditional view. Consider a moment with me?
  • In John 16:32, Jesus knew His disciples would scatter but that His Father would be with Him.
  • Jesus talked to His Father throughout His time on the cross (Luke 23:34, Luke 23:46)
  • In the very Psalm Jesus was quoting when He borrowed David's words to express the anguish of bearing God's wrath for us, the very Psalm Jesus wanted them to consider as they witnessed its fulfillment, verse 24 says this:
"For he has not despised or scorned 
   the suffering of the afflicted one; 
he has not hidden his face from him 
   but has listened to his cry for help."
Psalm 22:24 NIV [Emphasis mine].

Some look to Habakkuk 1:13 to support the traditional view that God had to turn His face away because He is too pure to look at evil. If we think about that, we might understand those words in a more figurative sense. God looks at evil every minute of every day as He observes our fallen earth--of course He can look at evil. What He can't do is condone it. What He can't do is abide it having the upper hand in our lives forever. What He can't do is let it go unnoticed. It matters to Him. Think about it: does God flee from sin or does sin flee from God?

I now believe that instead of abandoning Jesus to suffer alone, God stayed with Him every moment, simultaneously laying the punishment for all sin, past, present, and future on Jesus, and suffering a Father's anguish at the horrendous suffering of His Son. The whole Trinity suffered together as Jesus accomplished the rescue they had planned together in order to save the world they loved too much to abandon. 

We do not have a God who abandons, who forsakes! We have a God who went to lengths we cannot even fathom to come to our rescue! On this glorious Easter morning, I pray that we see anew the immeasurable love displayed by each member of the Godhead in the crucifixion and the resurrection and the profound transaction that happened in between. If you have never given your heart to Jesus, I pray that you would see how deeply you can trust His love.

"O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be."
Final verse of the hymn, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go


Happy Easter to each and every one of you!
HE IS RISEN!!
HE IS RISEN INDEED!




If you would like to hear more about this view, my pastor has done an excellent message laying it out. As with everything I write here, I hope you don't take my word for it, but that my words cause you to want to study it out for yourself.
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1275-1295 (April 1st through April 7th)

1. 3 gifts round
My camera lenses
Tires that carry us safely to and fro
Communion chalice
2. 3 gifts white
Comfy socks
Pages in a book
Sudsy soap
3. 3 gifts surprisingly found
The wonders of the walrus
Missing piece of Drummer Boy's cymbal case
Two for the price of one
4. 3 gifts in His Word
Faith
Hope
Love
5. 3 gifts @ 11 AM, 2 PM, 6 PM
That She So Sweet confided in me when something ugly happened at school.
A vice principal who responded swiftly and with strength on her behalf.
Stormy skies painted peach and salmon and blushing rose
6. 3 gifts nailed together
My desk that is my classroom, my darkroom, and my publishing house for these little word offerings of mine
This house that God has kept us in through years of economic turmoil
My Savior and the cross where He saved me
7. 3 gifts waited for
Quiet
Progress
Relief

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