Above is a painting by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet entitled Descent From the Cross.
The Christian church identifies this week as the most important week in the history of humankind – Holy Week.
We have Maundy Thursday, focused on the Last Supper of Christ with the twelve. This is followed by Good Friday, whereas Christ is sacrificed upon the cross for humanity’s sin. Next we have Holy Saturday (or Silent Saturday), a day that many evangelicals might not call to mind, as it lies between the death and resurrection of Christ. Lastly, we have Easter Sunday, the day of celebrating Christ’s defeat over death through resurrection.
More and more, I have become aware that resurrection cannot be attained without first entering death. This was true of Christ and it is true of those who want to enter in to the life of Christ.
There is a process of death – we see this across those dreaded three days – Thursday to Saturday. A last meal with his closest friends, one of them being his betrayer, though almost all would abandon him at some point. We have a day where even the sun hides its face as Christ is sacrificed upon the cross. And then, it all continues for another day with absolute silence. The body of Jesus wrapped and buried, the stone rolled in front of the tomb. Possibly every ounce of hope has been depleted from the followers of Christ. Not a peep is heard from the tomb.
We all know those quoted words of Christ as he hung on the cross – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
And those words need to settle upon us.
The first two verses of Psalm 22 declare this in full:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Again, those words need to sit with us – at least for Friday and Saturday. Death, confusion, pain, silence – they all have their place in the Christian life. Remember, resurrection cannot be attained unless there is death.
However, what we might not realise is that these words of Ps 22:1-2 do not simply stop there. The psalm continues…
When the Jews quoted Scripture, it wasn’t so much about quoting a single verse here or there to prove a point. Normally, the quotation was to bring to mind a larger context, a fuller passage.
It’s not unlike someone quoting a well-known verse today. I bet most could complete the statement.
For example: In the beginning was the word…
We would follow with the words – …and the word was with God and the word was God.
Or how about: For God so loved…
You would complete the statement with – …the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
With no printing press so long ago, Jews had to really learn the Scriptures. And learn them well. So for Christ to quote the beginning of Psalm 22, he was not simply bringing to mind one part of one verse. The full psalm was being invoked.
But what does that full psalm say, and it’s a longer one?
Take a moment to read it.
No, really. Do read it.
And perhaps note vs19 and following. Note that the prayer is heard. Note the fruit that would follow. The person who makes this prayer, originally David, tells us they will not be despised and scorned. A listening ear has been given to this prayer. Not only that, but praise, worship, justice, righteousness and salvation will follow. Not an ethereal salvation for the clouds. But the deliverance of God on behalf of his anointed.
The prayerful song tells us a story. A story that begins with death and silence, but ends in deliverance and justice. And such was played out in the life of Christ as he was raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit.
Vindication. Truth. Justice. Salvation.
This is where the cry of Psalm 22 is headed.
Vindication. Truth. Justice. Salvation.
For those who put their trust in their God, they will follow after death.
Take it from the sacrifice of Christ. This is why Paul could declare that the cross displayed the power and wisdom of God. Weakness will be turned to strength in the hands of God. Foolishness will be turned to wisdom in the hand of God. Death will be turned to life in the hands of God.
We are headed to a brighter future. But we have to begin at death.
Lord, we ask that you teach us through Thursday, Friday and Saturday, in order that Sunday will have that much more of a transformation in our lives.