A Devotion for 25 March 2021 Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord), the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” Psalm 22:1 – a Messianic Psalm
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The profound voicings of Jesus from the cross have filled volumes in devotional and theological works. This brief devotion does not aspire to rise to the scholarly level of most of those works by gifted men but simply is intended to remind the reader of them for deeper and personal meditation.
As most readers will know, the 22nd Psalm is perhaps the most profoundly Messianic Psalm of all that describes the suffering of our Lord on the cross in verse 1-21, and His resurrection glory in verses 22-31.
We will simply examine a summary of remarks of our Lord on the cross as a reminder of their depth of meaning to us.
The First Voice from the cross was one of INTERCESSION: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 These words were uttered around 9 A.M (the third hour). This has a peculiar meaning to us since the grave sin being committed was as much against the Father as the Son in having His own Son treated with such cruelty. So, Christ could not forgive the sins of the offenders in the same way He forgave sinners during His ministry. Forgiveness for this one sin of rebellion against the Father must come from the Father Himself. Yet, even those who drove the nails and lifted the rough-hewn cross fell into the aura of intercession on the part of our Lord should they believe and repent.
The sins were grievous! Luke describes the egregious act in precisely the same way as Psalm 22 does: “And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. 35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” Luke 23-34-35 and compare: “16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Psalm 22:16-18 Our Lord’s first concern was to forgive! What a great forgiveness that was compared to the small sins we refuse to forgive of others.
The second Voice heard was that of MERCY: 39 ¶ And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” Luke 23:39-44 Christ died among thieves, but one repented on the cross and was forgiven even at that painful moment by our Lord. Forgiveness of the sinner is never too late. There are no acts of man that can forestay or nullify that forgiveness. Salvation is all of grace and none of the works of men. It should be noted that Christ died in the stead of the believer just as surely as He died in the stead of Barabbas – but we know not the future spiritual condition of Barabbas. His salvation, unlike that on the cross, was perhaps merely a brief extension of life in the flesh.
The third Voice was one of AFFECTION: “25 ¶ Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” Our Lord had other brothers of the flesh, but He chose the Apostle of Love (John) upon whom to confer the care of His beloved mother, Mary. The blood that joins us in Christ is a stronger relations than that of the flesh. The affection of our Lord was also reciprocated by those who risk death by standing at the cross as a comfort to their Lord. The women demonstrated extraordinary courage as well as John. The three Mary’s and John were drawn to the foot of the cross by a love that knows no danger. Throughout all of the Gospel of St. John, the abundance of love is distinct and overpowering. He was the youngest of the Apostles and likely the one whose heart was tender to overflow with love for His Lord and Savior. Hopefully, ours will be, too.
The fourth Voice was that of DISSERTION: Christ was made the object of ridicule by His cruel enemies who gazed upon the naked body of One who was ever modest and without sin. They cursed Him, spat upon Him, bore two-inch thorns into His beloved brow. All but the four standing at the foot of the cross were gleeful at His suffering. The terrible reality was that Jesus could have called upon legions of angels to save Him at any time; but he forsook the thought and suffered in pain and patience for us. As He gazed out over the Temple grounds beyond the wall of Jerusalem, the haze of the sun was blinding, His eyes were filled with sweat and blood. In His near delirium, He called out to the Father whose face was turned away in anguish from watching this horror being played out: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46. This was a moment when the full weight of our sins fell upon the shoulders of one who knew no sin of His own. His Father, always a sure Presence, was now distant and not inclined to witness the terrible scene at Calvary. As the Father turned His face away, there was darkness over all the land from the 6th to the 9th hour (noon to 3 PM). Often, in our trials and tribulations, we feel abandoned by God. But He suffers us to prevail over the storm as He did His own Son so that we can enjoy that same resurrection victory.
The fifth Voice is one of HUMANITY: “I Thirst!” As the pains of death approach its victim, there is a thirst for things that are unquenchable. He was the very Fountain of Living Waters, yet, He thirsted for us. “13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” Jeremiah 17:13 He knew the end was near. He would descend into the depths of death and Hell for us. It must have been a foreboding sight for the Son of God that knew not death. His blinding pain, nevertheless, was of more than the physical exhaustion and hurt of the nails – much more. Looking out over the landscape of humanity, He was mindful of every name that had, or would, place their trust in God. The nails have graven those names in the palms of His torn and outstretched hands. “15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. 16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” Isaiah 49:15-16
The sixth Voice of VICTORY: It was the 9th hour, the hour of sacrifice of the Pascal lamb in the Temple – the VERY hour that the Lamb of God surrendered His soul in death: “ 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” John 19:30 This very moment was the CRUX of all time dividing all time and eternity into two parts – BEFORE and AFTER! At that moment the Temple vail separating the people from the presence of God was torn top to bottom symbolizing no longer a separation of God from His people. Our High Priest became Christ who intercedes for our sins. If we take up and follow Christ – all the way each day, we shall enjoy that Victory over death which He paid for us.
The seventh is the Voice of finality in DEATH: “46 ¶ And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:” Luke 23:46 That Spirit of the Lord returned to His Father just as that of all believers. “7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7 It is at this point that Psalms 22:22-31 takes up the joyful sound of proclamations of praise in the finished work.
It may seem early to mention the cross in the week before Palm Sunday, but the final days of Christ and His resurrection are packed with betrayal and beauty that must be doled out in doses capable of being received.