“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
In this cry of Jesus from the cross, we find these despairing words that, paradoxically, have given many Christians comfort. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas explains that we who live in the aftermath of Auschwitz and in the shadows of 9/11 are those that most identify with “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” We do so because we think we have some idea about what it means to be forsaken. Maybe God understands our suffering? Perhaps God even suffers with us?
“That we can even begin to entertain such thoughts is but an indication of our refusal, indeed our inability, to believe that the One with hands on this humiliating cross is God. This is not a cry of general dereliction; it is the cry of the long-expected Messiah, sacrificed in our stead and thus becoming the end of sacrifice.”
Given the profundity of Jesus words, there is really no way to inwardly digest what is being attested to here. Any theological concept or allusion to the cross itself is ultimately unhelpful insofar as it is unable to really articulate what is going on in this — the death of God’s son for the redemption of His people.
However, in these last words of Jesus, we are able to find some comfort, but not in analogies to our own sense or conception of suffering and death, but in our actual suffering and death. When we fear, when we question, when we doubt, when we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we know that we are not the first and we are not alone.
“Hear these words,” writes Hauerwas, “and know that the Son of God has taken our place, become for us the abandonment that our sin produces, that we may live confident that the world has been redeemed by this cross.”
In light of this, we can do only what the Church has been doing for 2000 years: we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.