Six years ago, a child from St Anne’s school, called Callum, gave me what was supposed to be an Easter card, he had made for me. But there was everything unusual and strange about this card. Rather than carry familiar images, traditionally associated with Easter, like bunnies, eggs, open tomb, sun rays etc, Callum’s card rather carried a picture of the crucifixion. Then I thanked him and received it, but in my mind, wondered why his was different from the others.
Six years later, I have gotten the answer, from the realities of the present situation that have impinged upon, nearly every aspect of, human life. But, then, I thought to myself, why did I think then, that Callum painting a picture of the crucifixion for Easter was strange?
I am sure I thought it was a strange picture because, I have grown to think that Easter is supposed to be associated with Joy, triumph and colour. We have categories built in our minds, over time, that influence the way we perceive, understand and accept reality. There is a way, or order we, think life and things are supposed to be. And when things do not align with this order, we struggle with coming to terms with it and, sometimes, think it unusual and strange that things are as such. In the Good Friday story, as well, there is a reflection of this aspect of our human nature in Jesus.
Jesus’ cry on the cross ‘’My God my God, why have you forsaken me’’, recorded in the gospels of Mathew and Mark tells the story. The expectation is that a God who is present will not let such happen to His innocent servant. It is thought unfair for the innocent to suffer; and God’s role should rather be to save them, from suffering innocently. An innocent servant of God suffering must mean that God has abandoned him surely. However, through the story of Jesus’ passion we learn something different.
Yes, Jesus cries, because he is truly in pains, but his cry is not that of despair. It is a prayer of hope and trust, of one who is sincerely communicating his condition to God, believing that God will help. Given the scriptural literacy of the people of Jesus’s time, the cry ‘’my God my God…’’ would have directed their minds to Psalm 22, which is one of the messianic psalms, that was quite popular in the liturgical life of the people.
In the full content of this Psalm lies our conviction that it is a prayer of hope and trust, in the midst of affliction.
In Psalm 22, made of 31 verses, the Psalmist begins by stating why he felt abandoned, given what was known of God, who was always there for His people. In fact, God through His faithfulness and goodness, made him build the trust he/she had in Him. But this expectation is not met, as he tells God of his suffering. The psalmist’s trust in God is even the source of mockery (verse7), which must have added to the pain. The Psalm however ends up being a powerful prayer of one who trusts in God, as one will see from verse 19 to the end.
Surely things have not been alright with us as a human family, recently. Quite a lot has changed in weeks. We have in various ways felt let down. We will be lying if there have not been times, we questioned why God abandoned us. It has been a devastating time, full of uncertainties. With Jesus we cry on God Friday, ‘’my God my God…’’.
And like Jesus, it is not a cry of despair but of Hope and trust. Despite everything we are experiencing, we still believe and Hope in Him that,
‘’the poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!’’ (Psalm 22:26).