Matthew 27:45-46 / John 19:28-29
Good Friday – Tre Ore Service
April 2nd, 2010
“Forsaking and Fulfilling”
Two very different words in this segment. “My God, why have you forsaken me” and “I thirst”. The fourth and fifth of Jesus sayings from the cross. The fourth word is a grand and eloquent declaration of suffering. The fifth a very simple admission of thirst. The fourth word is poetic and existential. The fifth word – factual.
And yet, there is a similarity. Both fulfill prophecy. Both draw on the Psalms. Both words, expressions of his suffering, are not for him, but for us. For in his forsaking, there is fulfilling. In his thirsting, there is salvation.
The fourth word is perhaps the darkest. Jesus quotes Psalm 22, which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There the psalmist writes a complaint that shows an eerie foresight. “All who see me mock me” the Psalm laments. “they wag their heads and say, 'he trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him!” it goes on... “dogs encompass me, a company of evildoers encircles me. They have pierced my hands and my feet... they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”.
Not only does Jesus know God's word very well, but the Scriptures know Jesus very well. They know and point to him and to this cross on which he hangs.
But why? Why has God forsaken him? Why does God turn his back on his own Son? Aside for the deep mystery concerning the inner workings of the Trinity – why must this happen?
It is clear. Sin must be punished. Its wages are death. God's righteousness demands it. His holiness cannot tolerate sin. And there is plenty of sin to be dealt with.
As Jesus suffers, he cries out – but not like you and I do. He's not really asking here, “why?” like you and I ask when we suffer. He knows exactly why. He is the Lamb of God. He is the sacrifice appointed. This is the cup he must drink. He who has no sin now becomes sin for us.
But as he quotes this Psalm he speaks for our benefit. And so we see – that his suffering is not some accident. It was the plan from the foundation of the world. And so we see that his suffering is not in vain – for at the end of the Psalm, God restores his suffering servant. Jesus suffers for us – and he cries out in his suffering, for us.
It's not just physical death, though. The spiritual death of sin, the separation from God that sin causes – and the ultimate eternal separation – is the very definition of hell. Away, far away from God – that's the worst place to be. And that's where Jesus was on this cross.
It's been said that the physical suffering he endures here is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to what was happening spiritually. The thorns, the nails, the flogging, the jeering and shame. None of it compared to God the Father's turning away. If you've ever gotten the cold shoulder from a loved one – imagine enduring the disapproval of God for all sins ever committed. Imagine suffering the torments of Hell for all condemned souls who ever lived and sinned. And you will begin, just begin, to appreciate the magnitude of his suffering.
But because God frowns on Christ, he smiles on you. Because God turns away from Christ who carried your sins, he turns to you and sees a clean slate. Because Jesus was forsaken, we will never be forsaken by God – a promise for all eternity.
The fifth word also keys into the Psalms – Psalm 22 reads, “ my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth”. Psalm 69 says, “and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink”.
Jesus knows his work is finished. And one detail of prophecy remains. In order to fulfill the scriptures, he says, “I thirst”.
No, this is not Jesus complaining for his own sake. Anymore than he was crying out for his own sake in suffering God's wrath. Some have pointed out how after losing all that blood and sweat – he must have been dehydrated. He must have been terribly thirsty. But that's not why he spoke.
In all things, Christ acts for us. Even on the cross. Even in his dying woes, he acts for us. He thirsts – for us. He thirsts for our salvation. He was drunk the cup of God's wrath down to the last drop. And now, to fulfill prophecy, he tells us, “I thirst”.
Every little detail of his work of salvation is complete. Jesus finishes the job, and does all things well. He does all things well for us who can do nothing right. We who thirst for sinful pleasures, we who lust for more and more. He, however, is the Savior. We who deserve God's wrath and punishment, he who takes it. We who turn away from God in sin, yet God turns away from Jesus - for us.
So too, with Jesus, the news is good. Even in the midst of suffering, surrounded by enemies, the subject of ridicule, thirsting and dying – he is our God, we are his people, he deals with our sins, and brings us salvation.
It's a Good Friday indeed. In Jesus Christ, Amen.