“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?“
I may be stepping out of line by saying this, but I need to tell you something that’s been on my mind.
I don’t like this verse: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It doesn’t sound like you; it doesn’t sound like something you would say.
Usually I love it when you speak. I listen when you speak. I imagine the power of your voice, the thunder of your commands, the dynamism in your dictates. That’s what I like to hear.
Remember the creation song you sang into the soundless eternity? Ah, now that’s you. That was the act of a God!
And when you ordained the waves to splash and they roared, when you declared that the stars be flung and they flew, when you proclaimed that life be alive and it all began? Or the whisper of breath into the clay-caked Adam? That was you at your best. That’s the way I like to hear you. That’s the voice I love to hear.
That’s why I don’t like this verse. Is that really you speaking? Are those words yours? Is that actually your voice? The voice which inflamed a bush, split a sea, and sent fire from the heaven? But this time, your voice is different.
Look at the sentence. There is a “why” at the beginning and a question mark at the end. You don’t ask questions.
What happened to the exclamation point? That’s your trademark. That’s your signature closing. The mark as tall and strong as the words which precede it.
It’s at the end of your command to Lazarus: “Come out!”
It’s there as you exorcise the demons: “Go!”
It stands as courageously as you do as you walk on the waters and tell the followers: “Have courage!”
Your words deserve an exclamation point. They are the cymbal clash of the finale, the canon shot of victory, the thunder of the conquering chariots. Your verbs form canyons and ignite disciples. Speak, God! You are the exclamation point of life itself…
So why the question mark hovering at the end of your words?
Frail. Bent and bowed. Stooped as if weary. Would that you would straigthen it. Stretch it. Make it stand tall. And as long as I’m shooting straight at you–I don’t like to see the word abandon, either. The source of life…abandoned? The giver of love…alone? The father of all…isolated? Come on. Surely you don’t mean it. Could a deity feel abandoned? Could we change the sentence a bit? Not much. Just the verb.
What would you suggest?
How about challenge? “My God, my God, why did you challenge me?” Isn’t that better? Now we can applaud. Now we can lift banners for your dedication. Now we can explain it to the generations to come. It makes sense now. You see, that makes you a hero. A hero. History is full of heroes. And who is a hero but someone who survives a challenge.
Or, if that’s not acceptable, I have another one. Why not afflict? “My God, my God, why did you afflict me?” Yes, that’s it. Now you are a martyr, taking a stand for truth. A patriot, pierced by evil. A noble soldier who took the sword all the way to the hilt; bloody and beaten, but victorious.
Afflicted is much better than abandoned. You are a martyr. Right up there with Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln. You are God, Jesus! You couldn’t be abandoned. You couldn’t be left alone. You couldn’t be deserted in your most painful moment.
Abandonment. That is the punishment for a criminal.
Abandonment. That is the suffering borne by the most evil.
Abandonment. That’s for the vile–not you.
Not you, the King of kings. Not you, the Beginning and the End. Not you, the One Unborn. After all, didn’t John call you the Lamb of God?
What a name! That’s who you are. The spotless, unblemished Lamb of God. I can hear John say the words. I can see him lift his eyes. I can see him smile and point at you and proclaim loud enough for all Jordan to hear, “Behold, the Lamb of God…” And before he finishes his sentence, all eyes turn to you. Young, tan, robust. Broad shoulders and strong arms.
“Behold the Lamb of God…”
Do you like that verse?
I sure do, God. It’s one of my favorites. It’s you.
What about the second part of it?
The second part of the verse.
Hmmm, let me see if I remember. “Behold the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.” Is that it, God?
That’s it. Think about what the Lamb of God came to do.
“Who has come to take away the sins of the world.” Wait a minute. “To take away the sins…” I’d never thought about those words.
I’d read them but never thought about them. I thought you just, I don’t know, sent sin away. Banished it. I thought you’d just stood in front of the mountains of our sins and told them to begone. Just like you did to the demons. Just like you did to the hypocrites in the temple.
I just thought you commanded the evil out. I never noticed that you took it out. It never occured to me that you actually touched it–or worse that it touched you. That must have been a horrible moment. I know what it’s like to be touched by sin. I know what it’s like to smell the stench of that stuff. Remember what I used to be like? Before I knew you, I wallowed in that mire. I didn’t just touch sin, I loved it. I drank it. I danced with it. I was in the middle of it.
But why am I telling you? You remember. You were the one who saw me. You were the one who found me. I was lonely. I was afraid. Remember? “Why? Why me? Why has all this hurt happened?”
I know it wasn’t much of a question. It wasn’t the right question. But it was all I knew to ask. You see, God, I felt so confused. So desolate. Sin will do that to you. Sin leaves you shipwrecked, orphaned, adrift. Sin leaves you aban–
Oh. Oh my.
My goodness, God. Is that what happened? You mean sin did the same to you that it did to me?
Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. You really were alone, weren’t you?
Your question was real, wasn’t it, Jesus? You really were afraid. You really were alone. Just like I was. Only, I deserved it. You didn’t. Forgive me, I spoke out of turn.