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Why Have You Abandoned Me?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Matthew 27:46

As Jesus suffered on the cross, he cried out to his Heavenly Father with familiar words: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This question is the opening line from Psalm 22, in which David begins by wondering why God is so far away and why God does not hear his prayers. Jesus used this question to express his anguish.

To an extent, we can answer Jesus’ question. The Father abandoned him because Jesus had taken upon himself the sin of the world. On the cross, Jesus experienced far more than merely physical suffering. He tasted the separation from God that results from sin. He entered into the hell of divine abandonment. And he did so for you and me, so that we might never have to experience God’s rejection.

Though we can answer Jesus’ question in part, there is a mystery here we can never fully fathom. It has to do with the all-surpassing love, grace, and mercy of God. Charles Wesley expressed this mystery well in his hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?”:

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

Charles Wesley, 1738

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you understand what Jesus experienced on the cross? What difference does it make to you that Jesus was abandoned by the Father so you don’t have to be abandoned?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, what mercy! That you would take my sin upon yourself, suffering that which I deserve, being abandoned by the Father . . . for my sake. What mercy! I can barely understand it.

What a mystery! That one who was fully human and fully God experienced this sort of abandonment. I can believe it. I can profess it. But I can hardly grasp it. As Martin Luther once said, “God forsaking God. Who can understand it?” Indeed, who can understand the depth and width and height and breadth of your mercy?

Yet in my limited understanding, I give you thanks and praise for your unfathomable mercy. Lord Jesus, what you did makes all the difference in the world . . . for the world . . . and for me. Hallelujah! Amen.

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