Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Last week, I took a class that consumed the entire week. Pastor Hill was very encouraging and supportive. The FOG folks were probably happy to have a “Pastor Tyler free week.” My wife was thrilled to have me home in the evenings. The class I was taking was a spotlight on preaching, specifically how do we as pastors communicate with our congregations through specific images and topics. It was a creative preaching class that I thoroughly enjoyed. It also got me sifting through images that I had come across over many years and stowed away in my brain’s rolodex.
And I came across this image that I first saw when I was in college struggling with a very particular sin. The image is a silhouette of Jesus hanging on the cross with a variety of words etched into the shape, looking like they had been spelled out by hand; my hand, your hand. Words that convey our deepest darkest sins.
Words like “Pride, gossip, drug use, worshipping self over god, porn, hate, greed, envy, doubt, deism, fear of man,” etc., etc. These white words sit in the black image so that you can unmistakably read them to yourself, checking off the boxes of which ones apply to you. If you are like me, you throw the checklist away because most, if not all, of these words apply to you. And just as your eyes drift down in conviction, the image calls for you to look to the cross beam where you read in crimson red a verse from 2 Corinthians 5:21.
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
There is so much happening in this image. I plan to preach a sermon very soon about it. But there is one big thing that I think gets overlooked whenever we talk about Jesus on the cross, dying for our sins, taking our place on the cross, and giving us forgiveness. We forget a vital part of the crucifixion that is essential to God’s character and what that means for us.
In Exodus 33, after Moses has asked God to “please show me your glory,” (v18) God responds to him by saying, “you cannot see my face for man shall not see me and live (v20).” God cannot see man because God cannot look at sin. God is an enemy of sin. God opposes sin. And because God is righteous and just, sin must have a penalty: death (Romans 6:23).
When you look at this image, I want you to see more than just Jesus on the cross. I want you to see more than just a man who “took my place.” What you actually see when you look at Jesus is a man who not just took your sins away, but as St. Paul says, “made him to be sin.” And because Jesus on the cross was sin in its entirety, God cannot look at him. He turns his face away causing Jesus to cry out in utmost agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Jesus is completely and utterly alone with your sins and mine, rejected by not just those who crucified him, but by God the Father himself.
Because God is righteous and just, he demands payment for sin. He abandons Jesus. But, because God is also loving, forgiving, and desiring for all of you to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), Jesus is baptized in the wrath of God and in turn we are given HIS righteousness in the greatest scandal in history.
When you look at this image of Jesus carrying and becoming your deepest and darkest sins, know that justice has been served. Sin has been killed. Death has been swallowed up. And Jesus has endured the wrath of God so that you never would have to experience separation from God the Father.
Take heart my friends, your sins, all of your sins, are forgiven.