Holy Week - The Seven Last Words of Jesus: Fourth Words
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - Mark 15:34
Among the seven last words of Jesus, three come from the book of Luke, three from John, and only one from Mark (Matthew includes the same as Mark).
Why was this so important for Mark to make this known as Jesus' last word? Is it what you imagine when you think of Jesus on the cross? Is it faith-shaking to conceive that the only word we get from Jesus in Mark or Matthew is his anguish over God forsaking him?
There has been speculation that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 here. Perhaps. We can't know for certain. But that has always felt like a bit of a cheat to me. At least if that's all there is to it.
Instead, what I have tended to imagine is that Mark wants us to know here that Jesus so fully entered the human condition that he experienced everything we experience.
Including the agony of feeling cut off from God.
Mark's Jesus is so very human. And is suffering here not just physically, but emotionally as well.
When I'm suffering or in an emotional free-fall, he tends to be the Jesus I think of first. Not as much the Gospel of John's carefully in control Jesus. Don't get me wrong. I love Jesus in John. But when I'm in the midst of an existential crisis, Jesus as he appears in that gospel is less accessible to me.
But in Mark and in Matthew, Jesus knows emotional suffering. He knows alone-ness. He knows what it is to feel cut off. Separate.
Mark, it seems to me, wanted us to know that.
As I said, we can't know for certain. Even Martin Luther was daunted by this very verse. Of it, he is claimed to have said: "God forsaken by God. Who can understand it?"
Perhaps we can't understand it now. But when we feel alone and separate from God, maybe then perhaps, it will make some kind of sense.
God of surprises, you know our suffering because you have felt that suffering as well. You hold us in your heart when we feel lost and cut off. Remind us always that you are present with us in each moment of our lives, loving us with everything you have. Amen.