Friday, September 23, 2011

Jesus on the Cross

Did you picture it?  Jesus--humiliated, judged, in mind-blowing pain--hanging on the cross.  His loved ones standing around, watching him suffer.  The onlookers wanting to see him die.  The guards.  The criminals beside him.  Did you picture it when you read Psalm 22?

I think this picture was even more poignant for me this week.  I was in seminary when I first heard of Troy Davis.  He was a man on death row.  At that point, I didn't know the strong stance our church takes against the death penalty.  But, as I read more statements from our church on the death penalty and as I learned more about Davis's case, I began to hurt more and more for the situation.  I attended prayer vigils and prayed a lot.  That time in 2008, we thought we'd won.  We thought we'd saved him from death.  As we saw this week, that wasn't so.  As I prayed for Davis, his family, and for the family of Officer MacPhail, I thought of this Psalm and read it with new eyes.

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".

This is the line Mark quotes.  I can hear Jesus singing this.  This is what we think of first--of the pain.  We wonder where God is in these situations.  We question how God is at work in this world of evil.  Where police officers are shot.  Where justice never seems to be served.  Where Jesus, innocent, hangs on a tree.

In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

But, we know that God is faithful and will deliver.  Even from the injustice and pain and death.  This is foreshadowing of good things!

But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 

I'm not good enough to deserve saving.

All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; "Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’ 

Wait, didn't one of the criminals say that to Jesus.  Can you imagine Jesus, singing a familiar song, a holy song, and the other criminal realizing that he was part of the plan!  How do you think he felt?

On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 

Jesus, once again speaking to the prophesy of his birth.  Words from David, that apply to Jesus and to David and to you and to me!

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 

We believe Jesus died of a "broken" heart.  When he was pierced in the side, blood and water poured out of his body.  His bones were probably out of joint--although not broken.  His heart was melting like wax!  He is reciting the words of David, and speaking truth of what was about to come.  His heart was breaking!

my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

One of the Seven Last Words of Jesus.  "I thirst".  Again, David speaking truth, and Jesus singing truth.  By now, I see them all stopping and listening to him.  How do you think they felt?  Mad?  Scared?  Sad?  Frustrated?  Do you think they realized it?

a company of evildoers encircles me.

Do evildoers surround you?  They were surrounding Christ.

They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.  
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!  O my help, come quickly to my aid! 

Do you think those soldiers thought twice.  The ones who cast lots for his clothes.  Do you think they stopped as they mouthed the words with him?  God has no longer forsaken, God is coming to help!  God is coming!  There is hope!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him!

Wait!  There is hope!  Maybe Jesus will be saved!  Maybe there is still hope that we can have a world where cops won't die, and where our government makes all life sacred and gives chances for redemption--even when it seems doomed!  Maybe there will be a last minute pardon!  

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

This is a far cry from "My God why have you forsaken me!"  For, remember God wins!  We will proclaim God's love and power to the world!  This is what Christ was singing.  More than just feeling forsaken--knowing that even in this place that God wins!

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, 

Oh, Jesus!  Oh David!  You are so right!  We still sing your name!  Preach on!  Sing on!  God is mighty!!!

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Some translate the words "he has done it" for it is finished.  He has finished it.  Just like John says Jesus's last words were.  It is finished.  Maybe not finished like we wanted.  We didn't want Jesus to die.  But Jesus didn't die in vain.  Jesus may have died to this world, but soon, this would would be saved in ways they didn't know. 

Jesus died on his terms.  Probably not doubting God's presence, but instead singing of God's love and mercy and power.

In your bad times--remember that God's power will reign.  If your world is caving in, return to Psalm 22, and remember that Jesus feels your pain, and in the end God wins.

God wins.  Love wins.  Jesus wins.  Let us go into the world and sing this song.  Don't let this world discourage you.  Let God love you.  Let God's power encircle you.  Remember, you are loved--by a God whose song should be sung to the ends of the earth.  



Carol Flores said...

Awesome comments Emily! I did not get a chance to comment on your first post but when I read the Psalm, the one thing that really stood out to me, besides the obvious correlations to the crucifixion, was the line "He has done it!" I love the use of the exclamation point here. You have already said it but when I read it it brought back to the front of my mind that JESUS WON! It's already happened! What a glorious message to spread to this dark world so in need of hope, especially now. God give me the means and the courage to deliver this message to your children.

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

With Carol, I must say that your interpretation is incredibly uplifting and insightful, Emily!
God wins! Yes!!! In our brokenness, that can be difficult to remember, but we must. We can't afford not to.
When I read the psalm, the image of Jesus dying on the cross was ever before me, but so was the light, the hope, the truth in verses 27-31. Yes, let us sing the song that goes from despair to utter and complete joy!
God wins!!!!!

Lynne Watts said...

Oh my! I feel like I've just experienced an amazing sermon in a devotional. What a new perspective I've had on some very familiar verses. To know that there was much said (or sang) inbetween, "Why have you forsaken me? and It's finished" is such a powerful and energizing thing.