12 March 2006

Understanding "Eli, Eli"

The Lord Jesus hangs on the cross, forsaken by His disciples, mocked by His tormenters, stripped of all dignity, treated like a petty thief, knowing His mother has to watch, tempted to believe that He is no longer the beloved Son. You remember the scene. It was noon, but it was the dark night of the soul. Not just His soul, but the soul of man; the soul of all creation. And then, slicing through the air is what we imagine to be a plaintive wail, Eli, eli, lama sabachthani? My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Now He finally knows what that woman felt. [Mt 15.21-28] Now He finally gets it. At least that’s what we’re tempted to think and believe—especially when we fall into that dark place, especially when our mind and heart have become so corrupted that we think, or even say, the unthinkable about our Savior.

Why does Our Lord cry out? Has He fallen into the sin of despair? Does He honestly believe that the Father has forsaken Him; that the devil is on the brink of winning; that there is no hope? Do you honestly believe that Our Lord Jesus has succumbed to the greatest temptation of all—the temptation of believing that the heavenly Father is abusive, unloving, uncaring, unwilling? Perish the thought! Even the pleading, begging woman refuses to believe that!

So why does Our Jesus pray the prayer He does? The same reason He answers the woman the way He does. The same reason He seems so slow in coming to our aid. The same reason He coaxes us to pray, “How long, O Lord; will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I have sorrow in my heart daily?”

That’s the woman’s prayer. That’s the prayer of poor Lazarus as he sits at the gate of the rich man. That’s the prayer of every martyr when death is only inches away. That’s the true believer’s prayer. For that prayer is the prayer that requires us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.

(An excerpt from today's sermon on Mt 15.21-28)

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