I presented the following Message during the LifeChurch.tv "Hand Off" to the local Campus Pastors for the Message “Forsaken” which is part of the Series “Red Letter Day”.
The other day as I went to get a cup of coffee I turned on the radio and a news alert caught my attention. Chelsea King, a 17 year old high school student who went for a run after school near
As I sat down I checked my email. I am a Premiere Elite Fast Pitch Softball coach and specialize in giving private pitching lessons. I saw an email from Nancy, the mother of one of my pitchers. I opened it thinking she wanted to schedule a lesson. But the email contained a link and a short note: "Coach, is this your pitcher?"
I clicked on the link and it took me to the Obituary Section of the Kansas City Star. The last name in the obituary matched the last name of one of my former pitchers. I panicked as I scanned the information looking for a first name. Then I found it — "Margaret!" Then I found the name of the children. One of them was named Emily. At first I felt relief, but then I was again saddened. It was not my pitcher who had died. It was her mom and her mom was only my age, much too young to die.
My thoughts went back to the news alert. Someone who cares so little about life that they rapped and murdered a 17 year old girl and yet they have their health. While my pitcher's mom who was a Christian and one of the nicest ladies I ever knew had her life cut short. Over and over again the word "WHY" came to my thoughts.
Emily played two years for me at the high school where I coached. During those two years Margaret was my scorekeeper. But she was much more than a score keeper. She cared about the players and took care of them. The word in the dugout was, "Margaret will fix it." "Margaret will know what to do." "See Margaret, she'll take care of it." And she did. In the midst of the chaos of playing double headers in competitive fast pitch softball, Margaret was an oasis of safety for my players.
One time, during warm ups, one of our players ripped a seam in her uniform shorts. Margaret took the shorts and ran home, sewed them and returned before the game started.
Margaret also kept score for the Premiere Fast Pitch Softball team Emily played on during the summer. When Emily went off to college and was too old to continue to play for this team, Margaret continued to travel with the team and keep score. But as Margaret was apt to do she did much more than keep score. Again, she took care of the players and even the coaches.
As timing would have it, I read the obituary during lent so my thoughts went to the words that Jesus spoke while on the cross, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me" (Mark 15:34).
This is a difficult passage. After all Christ was the Son of God and yet he cries out asking why God has forsaken him. How can God forsake God? As Martin Luther once commented, “God forsaking God! Who can understand it?”
These words of Jesus are actually the first verse of Psalm 22 that was written 600 years before Christ. It is important to remember that during the time of Christ paper was very expensive and thus in short supply so most people had to memorize most if not all of scripture because they could not afford to have a copy to read and refer to. So when Christ cries out these words he is no doubt remembering this passage he had memorized. And yet he is doing more than remembering or quoting it. He is identifying with it, and taking it on as his own at that moment.
When we hit those moments in life where we ask, “Why?” we need to remember three things. That God is good, God is for us and that God is with us.
God is Good:
When Christ was called “good teacher” he responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
It is interesting that in Genesis, when God creates he says “It is good.” He says this not once, but seven times. In fact the last time he says, “It is very good.” The repetition is interesting. It is almost as if God, like a parent is speaking to a child and saying, no matter what happens, remember the creation is good.
What is even more powerful about this statement is God does not speak this as part of the creation, from within creation. He speaks this from His vantage point as the creator. He does not speak it from that moment in time only. Rather, He knows what is at that moment, as well as all the possibilities that might come to past. He even knows what I might experience in the future with the death of Margaret and yet He says, “It is very good.”
So when we hit those times when we ask “Why?” we must remember that God is good!
God is for Me:
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
When Christ cries out “My God, my God…” he is identifying with Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is a lament. A lament is a prayer for help that arises out of our pain. The Psalmist calls out to God and presents his suffering and confronts his enemies.
This cry of “Why?” to God should not be confused with despair. When we despair we give up. Rather, it is a cry of pain and confusion. And what causes the most pain and confusion for the Psalmist is he has been faithful to God and yet he is mocked by his enemies for this very faithfulness. "All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him." (Psalm 22: 7-8)
In this condition, the cry to God does not equal giving up on God. Rather, the cry is an affirmation that even though God does not seem close, God is close enough to hear his cry. It is one last act of faith even in the face of death.
After the Psalmist speaks to God, in the next verses, 12-21, he speaks of his enemies. It is clear that while God seems far off, his enemies are very near and their attacks take their toll both physically and emotionally to the point that he feels death is close.
The phrase, “I am poured out like water” may very well refer to his tears. All that he is as a person is in these tears. His tears are all he has to offer. Yet even though his entire being is poured out like tears, this is not enough to quench death. His end is to be laid in the “dust of death”.
Finally in the last three verses of this section there are urgent calls for his God to come close, deliver and save him. God can make his situation right because God is for him.
God is with me:
“God has said, never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
In the second part of Psalm 22, verses 22-31, the prayer turns to praise. He is no longer surrounded by enemies but family and friends in the congregation of faith.
He receives a meal.
After this the circle of praise moves from the psalmist, to his family, to his friends, to all of
If the psalmist felt isolated and alone in space and time at the beginning of his cry, “My God, my God why…”, now at the end of the prayer, the praise to God goes out to fill all space and time.
The praise encompasses far more than his localized world of pain and suffering. Praise of God, God, and the psalmist all win out.
It is because of this that he knows “God is with me!”
Faith in Jesus does not bring us deliverance from death but deliverance through death. Through the death of Jesus the meaning of death has been forever changed. Death is no longer a separation from life and family. It is now the path to the ultimate life and family.
When we cry out we are changed. First because our cry touches Jesus cry. And second, when Jesus cried out he entered into each of our cries. The moment we cry out and became a follower of Jesus we become a part of His praise that stood on the other side of death. We stand with him in family, friends and all believers from all time and space. This is the resurrection.
It is interesting that in both Gospel accounts Christ never reached the praise portion of the prayer. Why? because this is on the other side of death. His meal, his family, his friends, the faithful among all the nations — all of this is on the other side of his death, in the resurrection. This is why we say “Yes” to follow Christ. When we do we become a part of his praise on the other side of death.
So when you hit those times that cause you to ask "Why?" remember, God is good, God is for us and God is with us.
Let’s rejoin Craig as he wraps up this weeks Message, “Forsaken”.
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