(This is part of an Easter series: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross. To view all posts in this series, click here.)
And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. ~Luke 9:23
Jesus gave us three ways that we are to follow Him (deny, take up, and follow), and then demonstrated these ways as He bore His own cross. In complete selflessness He denied Himself as He prayed for His persecutors, promised paradise to the thief on the cross, and provided for His mother. SELFLESSNESS is first called for in following Jesus.
In taking up our cross daily, we are called to ENDURANCE. Once again, at His own crucifixion, Jesus demonstrates the kind of endurance that we are to have.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? ~Mark 15:34
A PRAYER OF DESPAIR – My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
The fourth thing that Jesus says on the cross is once again a prayer. I find it interesting that the first, the middle, and the last statement of Jesus are all prayers.
He cries out with a loud voice…loud enough for all to hear. At this point Jesus has been on the cross for about six hours. The world has been in darkness for three hours. And He makes this cry of “God-forsaken”ness.
Honestly, this portion of scripture has troubled me. Here’s why – because I know that God promises to never leave us nor forsake us. The 23rd psalm says “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
But there are times in our lives, dark times, when we feel forsaken. God-forsaken even; as if God Himself has forgotten us. This is where Jesus was. It had been completely dark for three hours. He had been on the cross for six hours. It was a dark time. It was during this time that the judgment of God for the sins of the world was being poured out onto Him. Because of this, God will never have to forsake me – that price has already been paid.
And so He prays.
When we are in dark times, what should we do?
Pray and seek the Word of God!
Prayer will help you endure! In this verse, Jesus does just that. He is actually praying the 22nd psalm. This was familiar to Him and the Jews of His time, just as perhaps the 23rd is familiar to us. We can even just quote a couple of words from it, and it elicits a response from people who know it. Simply say “The Lord is my shepherd…” and you will get heads nodding in recognition because they know the rest of it.
I believe that is what Jesus is doing right here. Let’s look at His words first, then at the actual psalm.
Again he is expressing his relationship – MY God. This is not an “Oh, God if you are there” prayer. This is a prayer to a God with whom He has a relationship.
He didn’t turn into one of those people who say, “That might be your God, I don’t want a God that allows this type of suffering.”
Even in the midst of this pain, God is still His God. Jesus did not allow circumstances to override His faith and His relationship with God.
He acknowledges that God is still God. In fact, this is one time where Jesus does not call Him “Father.” God is still in control of this situation and worthy to be called on, even in the midst of allowing this to happen.
A God that still hears
The fact that Jesus calls out, and even asks a question, indicates that even in feeling forsaken, He knows God still hears. And not only does God hear, He knows why the suffering is taking place. God always knows why, even when no one else does.
Even when we feel forsaken, God still hears and knows the answers to all those tough questions.
Praying the Word of God
Jesus was the word made flesh that dwelt among us (John 1:14). Why would the Word have to pray the Word? Once again, I believe that Jesus is giving us the ultimate example of how to live while dying. In the process of dying to ourselves, during the most painful dark times, we need to remember to pray the Word. The Word will always assure us of who God is and who we are.
Take a look at Psalm 22. Read it…
In this psalm (a Messianic psalm) we see that the psalmist goes from desolation, to praise, to describing his situation then back to who God is, what God can do, what God has already done, what God will do, and what God will do through him. The psalm ends in ultimate victory, wrought by the hand of God.
I believe that Jesus, in quoting this psalm, is reminding people that He is the fulfillment of this psalm (written 600 years prior to his crucifixion, when crucifixion was not even done). By quoting this psalm, by praying this psalm, He claims victory in the midst of despair. This allows him to ENDURE.
Endurance begins with prayer to a God with whom we have a relationship, who is still God even in dark times, that still hears us, the God who gave us His precious Word, the God who delivers victory to His people. Hallelujah!
I’m a Believer!