Mark 15:33-38 G O O D F R I D A Y
What do we mean by forsaken, there are other words or phrases that capture elements of the meaning.
Abandoned, deserted, left behind, left high and dry, turn one’s back on, cast aside, given up, rejected, disowned.
‘At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.’ Mark 15:33-38
We have just completed a year where very many have felt in some way forsaken. Whether it was intentional or not it has been difficult to avoid a sense of being cast aside, left high and dry, given up on. This has probably been a year where more people have experienced loneliness than ever before, at least in the lifetime of most people in our country. It has not been the greatest tragedy in history, not even in the last 100 years. There have been very many in the world where the pandemic has just added to human misery and not been the worst of what was happening in their lives. I think of Lebanon where 25% of the population are refugees. Living in Yemen right now is to live with the combined threats of starvation, violent death from bombing and multiple public health threats where Covid is just another one. There are many other such places. People groups who have been or are being subject to genocide experience forsakenness of the most extreme kind. Sadly, appallingly, I cannot think of a single incident when the world community has been quick to respond and halt such an event. As you know I have spent some time with asylum seekers in this country whose overwhelming feeling is one of being forsaken.
The Christian faith is unique in that it’s founder experienced complete forsakenness. He suffered the most extreme form of execution practised at the time, was deserted by all his friends and then cut off from God experiencing the wrath of God for the sake of others. When the Christian prays he/she prays to God who understands the extremes of human suffering because he went through it himself. When Corrie Ten Bloom was with her sister stripped naked and forced to march before Nazi soldiers mocking them, she called in her shame to her sister, remember they stripped our Lord naked and hung him on a cross.
Over the progress of Maundy Thursday there was a progression of ways Jesus was forsaken. It was two days before Passover and the chief priests and scribes were seeking how to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. Mark 14.1 Jesus started the day in the house of Simon the leper at Bethany. A woman came in with an alabaster flask of nard and broke it and anointed Jesus with the entire contents. It was hugely expensive costing more than an average person’s annual income. Judas Iscariot hypocritically complained its value could have been given to the poor. Jesus rejected that with the words, ‘She has done a beautiful thing … she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in memory of her.’ Mark 14.6-9
Judas left Jesus and arranged to betray him for cash. Later that evening Jesus and his disciples met to celebrate the Passover. Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. The disciples started to protest but Jesus reminded them that his betrayal is prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures but that does not absolve the person of their responsibility. Despite this Jesus then shared bread and wine with the disciples as a sign that they are his body on earth and he is about to shed his blood on their behalf. He has left us with this sacrament as a means of remembering him and declaring his substitutionary death until he returns. Mark does not record the inappropriate argument that broke out between the disciples as to who of them should be regarded as the greatest on the eve of Jesus death. Neither does he record the visual lesson in humility Jesus taught them as he washed each of their feet. He does record though how when Jesus was going through the agonising prayer in the garden of Gethsemane and had appealed to his disciples to pray with him, they fell asleep three times.
Mark also records when the soldiers came at the dead of night to arrest Jesus given away by Judas Iscariot, how the disciples drifted away, preserving their own lives rather than risk arrest themselves. ‘And they all left him and fled.’ Mark 14.50 Mark probably records his own shame as the young man who lost his loin cloth and fled naked from the scene. Peter followed at a distance but when repeatedly challenged denied any knowledge of Jesus, although only hours before when Jesus had warned him of this event, Peter had sworn fealty.
Jesus was left alone. Arrested, subject to false accusations, in the end exposed to a manipulated baying crowd screaming for his death. He faced lies, hatred, corrupt judgement, torture that would have left the bones on his back exposed and suffering major blood loss, tormented by mocking soldiers who blindfolded him, a crown of thorns forced on his head, then hit him around the face and forced him to carry his own cross beam to the point of collapse. He was now a man who had been as forsaken by men as it was possible to be. Nails were driven through his wrist bones and ankles, he was suspended on a cross where eventually he would not have the strength to lift his body to breath and he would finally die probably of heart failure. And yet all of this was not the forsakenness that caused him the greatest suffering. It was being forsaken by God the Father for the sake of all who will believe in him. It was the agony of experiencing the wrath of God, being cut off from God the Father with whom he had shared the greatest intimacy for all eternity. It was the point when he voluntarily took upon himself the judgment of God for all the sin of those who trust in him. We will never know that level of forsakenness. We can only show our gratitude by submitting our lives to him.
However forsaken we are, we are never forsaken by him.
Here are just a few of the many occasions where the bible reminds us that we will never be forsaken by our God because we are his people.
Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
For the cross – Brian and Jen Johnson (Kenny’s last choice.)