“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?,” (Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34; Ps. 22), with the story of the Prodigal Son. That loving story with these words of despair from the cross? How do they fit?
Jesus was a great teacher. Even from the cross, He taught. He taught that as the psalmist did, one could holler at God; one could say, “God, where are you? I need you! Horrible stuff is happening to me: where are you?” On the cross, horrible things were happening to him just like in Psalm 22: the people were jeering at Him: “You’re God’s favorite? Let God get you down from there.” The soldiers were gambling for His clothes. His hands and feet had been pierced. He’d been crucified.
By speaking the first line of what we now know as the 22nd Psalm, Jesus reminds us that we can holler at God, and at the same time, He reminds us of other parts of Psalm 22; good parts. The parts about God’s delivering the ancestors who had cried to God for help. The part about God always being with the psalmist from the mother’s breast. The part about God always doing what God says God will do. Psalm 22 begins in despair, recalls God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness, and ends in hope.
You may not think this can be connected to the story of the Prodigal Son, but it can. First of all, Jesus told that story. Jesus knew His Father, our Father, was like the Prodigal father. Just as God the Father would do, this father waited for his son to return; Knew his son would return, went every day to a high place just to see his child coming… and one day, he did see his son. A long way off. And the father took off running. The servants must have been close by and freaked out by the father’s actions. “Whoa, Sam…Master’s running! Something important! Let’s run, too.” Such an important man didn’t run. Then, when the father reached his son, he held him, and didn’t let the son speak the apology he had planned, and the father told the servants, “Get the credit card ring; get the best robe: my best robe, get shoes for his feet, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again.” Jesus told this story, knowing His Father, our Father, was like that – loving, forgiving, waiting, expectant, ready to rejoice.
Do you know what God’s favorite childhood game is? And He’s really bad at it. It’s Hide and Seek. Cause even tho’ we like to hide, God is really good at seeking us, wherever we are. And when it’s our turn to count to 100, and we turn around ready to seek God, God is right there. Waiting. Smiling.
I hollered “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” one time in seminary. I was going to meet with a very scary, smart, stunning, young, woman professor of Theology. And I’d been up ’till 3 am working on the paper she was going to review with me. And when I got to the campus and went to print it out, it turned out I hadn’t saved the 3 am copy, only the 11 pm copy. I hollered “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Other people in the computer lab looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was, since the lady professor turned out to be very gracious; my fears were unfounded. Since that time, when life is overwhelming and horrible things are happening, well, lately at least, instead of hollering, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?,” I have learned to say/holler instead, “My God, my God, why (or how) have I forsaken Thee?” Because, as Jesus knew, even on the cross, God never deserts us; we desert God.
And God is ready to receive us the minute we “come to ourselves.” The minute we turn around, God is there. He will not leave us or forsake us. “even to the end of the age.”
Jesus, as it has been revealed to me, never thought God had abandoned Him. He trusted, even as He cried in despair at what was going on. By quoting the first line of Ps. 22, Jesus reminded himself that the Father was, even then, waiting on a high hill to see Him come Home.
Our Lenten prayer grows: “Father, forgive them: they don’t know what they’re doing, and teach me to forgive myself. Thy will be done. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. My God, my God, why have I forsaken thee?”