Palm Sunday 2016 Year C
Deacon Buck Close
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Doesn’t this anguished cry from Jesus give us pause? What
do we make of his obvious sense of abandonment? Where
is his Father when Jesus really needs him? How can God
As a boy, this cry from the cross haunted me because it
made me question Christ’s divinity. As a man it comforts me
because it speaks to his humanity. Jesus was suffering
horrific pain. He was being ridiculed and spat upon. His
companions had jumped ship and were hiding out fearful to
be associated with him. His poor mother was weeping at the
foot of the cross. Is it any wonder that serenity left him and
that he cried out in his anguish? And is there any doubt that
his anguish, his perception of being forsaken, was heartfelt
at that moment?
This question that Christ blurts out in his delirium is the same
question that we all are moved to ask at the times we feel
most alienated from God. It is doubt and fear verbalized. It is
part and parcel of being human.
Why doesn’t the Easter faith and hope that we share banish
these dark thoughts of Good Friday? Well, I cannot answer
that. But I know that feelings of doubt, abandonment, fear,
and meaninglessness are very much a part of the lives of the
followers of Christ. They are part of my life. They are part of
yours. And Jesus was just like us in this regard that Friday in
Jerusalem when he died. Had he endured the agony of the
cross with serenity, calmly ignoring the horrific pain of
crucifixion, then the gospel writers would surely not have
made up this outburst. They were out to document the death
of a man who they had come to believe was God incarnate
yet they included a spasm of despair very near the end of his
life. And while we cannot be sure, in an historical sense, that
he actually quoted Psalm 22 as Matthew and Mark assert, I
submit that we can say with confidence that his outcry was
full of pain and abandonment.
It is tempting to pass over this moment and move on to the
glory of Easter morning as if the joy of resurrection
expunged from memory the pain of death, of abandonment.
But would that not leave us woefully unprepared for the
various Golgothas that we must confront in our own human
span of life. The fact that our Lord felt abandoned by God in
his final hours surely tells us that we may feel similarly
abandoned along the way. It is not a feeling that we can
banish of our own will. It is not one from which God shields
us. It is part of life. In some cases, it is the end of life.
We are all going to share Jesus’ feeling of abandonment at
some points in our lives. And, at some of those times, we are
going to feel powerless to shake off that feeling. The hope
of Easter will not get through to us for some reason. Prayer
will be difficult, maybe impossible. It happened to Jesus. It
can happen to us. It is part of life.
But I doubt that resignation is the lesson we are meant to
take from this portion of the gospel. Rather I would guess
that Jesus would have us take this as a call to vigilance.
Surely, if Jesus felt abandoned, there are millions of people
in this world feeling abandoned right now. And some of
them we are going to bump up against as we go through life.
Their sense of abandonment may stem from hunger,
poverty, violence, addiction, war, prejudice, disability,
imprisonment, racism, or sheer loneliness. We can walk on
by them and say to ourselves “Isn’t it a shame that the world
is so unfair?” or we can see in their faces the face of the
forsaken Christ and choose to walk with them. And walking
with them won’t be easy nor will it protect us from our own
times of feeling abandoned. Good Friday is as much a part
of the journey as Easter. But the good news that we proclaim
is that the two are inseparable.