A Good Friday reflection on some of Jesus’ final words.

By Rev. Dr. Theodore J. Hopkins

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

These words of Jesus spoken from the cross are among the most haunting and most beautiful words ever spoken. On the one hand, they are words of deep sorrow and sadness. Jesus’ abandonment began as his disciples fled from him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, the people of Israel rejected him as they cried out for him to be crucified and Barabbas to go free. Even the sun scorned the Christ as it refused to shine its light on Jesus’ face. And none of these abandonments compared to what Jesus would experience when he cried out these harrowing words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In this moment, Jesus experienced the total abandonment of God the Father. Although the sinless Son of God deserved only the perfect joy of heaven, he received rather the loneliness of hell, forsaken even by God, the source of all grace and goodness. How can we respond to this except to cry out with the hymn writer, Johann Rist, “O sorrow dread! Our God is dead” (LSB 448)?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

At the same time that these words of Jesus are haunting, they are also beautiful words of pure Gospel. The Father forsook His Son not out of anger but out of love, love for the world that we sinners might become children of God. The Son willingly received this abandonment by the Father for our sake so that He could bear our sins and be our Savior. In this profound, divine mystery, the Father abandoned the Son, and the Son allowed himself to be forsaken, all for the sake of our salvation.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). In the cry of dereliction, we recognize Jesus forsaken, but forsaken to free us from sin. We see Jesus abandoned, but abandoned to abolish sin for us. We know Jesus to be rejected, but rejected that we might be righteous in God’s sight.

In Jesus’ haunting cry of Good Friday, we find not only sorrow, but the joy of our salvation.

Rev. Dr. Theodore J. Hopkins is associate professor of theology and assistant vice president of academics at Concordia University Ann Arbor.

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