I don’t know about you, but sometimes there are those passages in the Bible that I really struggle to make sense of. For some reason the way I have heard it taught or preached just doesn’t add up with who I know God to be or the experience I have had in the church. For instance, there is a passage in the New Testament that I have heard taught on in a variety of fashions. Christ is in his final moments of pain and suffering before his death and we read this in the gospel of Matthew, “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). – Matthew 27:45-46 I have heard people teach that God the Father turned his back on the Son, which really doesn’t mesh well with Trinitarian theology. I have heard people teach on Jesus quoting the death Psalm (Psalm 22) as he was a good rabbi and this is how you enter into death. But this week I had an epiphany and it has helped me to maybe shed some light on this passage a bit more.
When we speak of Jesus and his time here on earth we often refer to this experience as the Incarnation; God made flesh. Jesus entered into our experience in solidarity. He came to show us what it means to live as God intended. He experienced what we experienced, was tempted as we are tempted and entered into suffering on our behalf. Suffering is probably one of the most genuine shared human experiences. In fact, I am not sure we can say we have truly lived unless we have experienced some form of suffering. Knowing this we look at Christ’ example in the midst of his agony and suffering and we see another act of solidarity. Jesus gives us permission to question the Divine life in the midst of our suffering. In his final mortal act of solidarity with humanity he embraces suffering with us and questions God in the face of darkness, saying to us in your suffering it is okay to ask why.
As a pastor you see a lot of people going through some really rough stuff. You see marriages struggling, cancer crippling people, accidents that decimate peoples lives, abuse and pain that leave you speechless. And often times the expectation is to give an easy answer to suffering. The problem is, there isn’t really an easy answer to suffering… But the one comfort I take from Christ solidarity with us is that it is okay to ask why. It is okay to question God in the midst of our pain and frustration. Christ has been there. And honestly, because He has been there, I also believe He is there. In our sufferings, God is present. And although that may not give us comfort right now or make it easier, it does give us hope. Hope that this is not the end. The story goes on and life triumphs over death and suffering will someday be no more.