The Lord’s Lament
Heavenly Father, we bless You and we praise You for the Passion of your Son, Jesus Christ. In it You have given salvation to us, You have made the Way of the Cross the way of eternal life. Help us to pick up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, that we too might share in His resurrected life, through Jesus Christ Who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns now and forever, Amen.
At noon until about the ninth hour, darkness came over the land. At about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, which is my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?
In the Gospel of Matthew we only have this one sentence recorded of what Jesus uttered from the cross. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 which begins with: “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Did Jesus recite the entire Psalm from the Cross or just this first line? There is no way to know. Interestingly, the last saying from the Cross “It is finished” sounds like the last line of Psalm 22: “He has done it.” Whether Jesus uttered the whole psalm or not, the first line says enough to convey the depth of spiritual lament of the Lord: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?
The first phrase, My God, reflects again the intimate relationship that God, the Father, has with God, the Son. Earlier on in the Gospel of Matthew 11:25, Jesus offered praise to His Heavenly Father.
“I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father and no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”
Jesus and the Father are One, as John’s Gospel tells us in John 10:30. “No one comes to the Father except through the Son” (John 14:6) No one knows the Father, as Jesus says, unless He reveals the Father to them.
There’s a very intimate love that is between the Father and the Son and yet, here on the Cross, Jesus cries out to his Heavenly Father,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
The cry reveals the abandonment of the Son from the Father. We are on the precipice of a Trinitarian mystery so we must be careful not to over-speak. How can the Father and the Son be one and yet there be this moment of abandonment of the Son by the Father? Can there possibly be a tear in the fabric of the relationship of the three divine Persons of the Trinity?
The words of Scripture often strain the limits of our ability to understand and comprehend. In a real and mysterious way, the Father forsook the Son. The spiritual agony of that moment is verbalized in Jesus’ prayer of lament from the Cross.
If Jesus prayed such honest prayers, then surely we are faithful in following His example. God knows our struggles. The incarnation shows us that Jesus became like us in every way, even to the point of death.
Some struggle with the thought of uttering honest prayers to God as if it is inappropriate or a sign of lack of faith. On the contrary, the Scriptures are filled with prayers of complaint, lament, and even anger voiced in prayer to God.
God wants your heart, not a façade. He knows when you are struggling. Through the indwelling Spirit He has placed in your heart, He hears the groans which words cannot express. (Romans 8:26-27) God already knows what you are feeling and how you are hurting. Go to Him with your most difficult questions, sorrows and struggles. Engage Him with your secret pain and your heart’s cry. Jesus did. He shows us the way to pray even in the midst of our darkest hours.