Good Friday - Son of God, by God Forsaken
Until you’re faced with the cold, chilling reality that your days are actually numbered, you might not notice it so much. But ask the hiker stranded for four days in sub-zero temperatures, ask the patient in the oncology ward who has just heard the words “stage 4,” ask the pinned down, bleeding accident victim who fears that the EMT’s and the jaws of life are not going to arrive in time—ask any of them what they think about seeing another sunrise. I didn’t think much about the fact that the sun rose this morning, but there are those who treasure each new morning because they know that they don’t have too many grains of sand left in the top half of the hourglass. So when they rejoice to see the dawn of another day, they also reflect on the God who is giving them that day. They might even reflect on the fact that every day they are given is based on a promise from God, that cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease until the God who created the seasons brings them to an end and fashions for his redeemed people a new heavens and a new earth— the home of righteousness.
Always more than we realize, we depend on the promises of God.
One promise, in particular, has been operating in stealth mode throughout all of our days. It is the promise that the Triune God is always with us, that he will never leave us or forsake us. We have never seen our Savior, but our Savior has never taken his eye off us. More than we realize, we depend on God not abandoning us, for that would truly be hell.
When he took on a servant’s form and was found in appearance as a man, Jesus depended on the promises of God. Unlike ours, his dependence on the promises of God was complete and perfect in every way. He relied on God for food and drink, for clothing and shoes, for help in trouble, for deliverance from evil, for everything. Jesus found great solace and peace in the fact that the Father who sent him to earth would never leave him to fend for himself, would never turn a deaf ear to his prayers, would never slumber or sleep, would always watch over him and protect him, would never leave him or forsake him.
Sainted Lutheran pastor and hymn writer Herman Stuempfle wrote a Lenten hymn with a mind-boggling title: “Son of God, by God Forsaken.” That title calls to mind the quandary in which Luther found himself when pondering Good Friday: “God forsaken by God—who can understand it?” In terms of the doctrine of the Trinity, how such a thing can have happened is inexplicable. In terms of being truly human, the peaceful solace Jesus had in his soul from leaning on the promise that his Father would never leave him or forsake him was the rug that was pulled out from under his feet in the cruelest of fashion. Suddenly, while nailed to a tree in supernatural midday darkness, that essential, pivotal promise was gone. The giver of the promise, Jesus’ eternal Father, was gone. Jesus was more incomprehensibly alone than you or I have ever felt. He was simultaneously drowning in the crushing ocean depths of God-forsakenness and burning in the raging inferno of God’s wrath, with his heavenly Father nowhere to be found. When he cried out, “Why!” the silence only continued, the solitude only deepened, the suffering went on unabated.
Forsaken. For us. To remove all our sin. This was the incomprehensible cost of our rescue, willingly paid by the one who suffered incomprehensible loss in our place.
When Jesus breathed his last, he was no longer forsaken. Our redemption price, the redemption price of the entire world, had been paid. The Father who had forsaken his Son received the soul of his Son into his loving hands.
There is not, nor shall there ever be, a hymn entitled, “Child of God, by God Forsaken.” That is an impossibility. Your heavenly Father will never, not even for a split second through all the endless moments of eternity, suspend or remove his promise to never leave you or forsake you. That happened to Jesus in your place; it’s not going to happen to you. The Lord God Almighty has purchased you and he possesses you as his own and he will not let go of you. As he keeps his promise and causes the sun to rise each morning, he will never forsake you through all of the tomorrows on earth that he has yet to give you. And when the day comes when days and seasons end and he keeps his promise to forever dwell among his people in the new heavens and the new earth, he will never forsake you through the endless today that he provides for you in heaven.