Friday, April 3, 2015

Hope in abandonment on Good Friday

According to two of the gospels, Christ quotes the opening words of Ps 22 at his death: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15.34; Mt 27.46). With these words Jesus expresses the sentiment of divine abandonment which was a result of his taking upon himself the curse of the Israelites as well as of all humanity (cf. 2 Cor 5.14; Gal 3.13; 1 John 2.2). But contained in these words is a glimmer of hope and trust in God, as well.

The psalm Jesus quoted ends with words like these:

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
    but heard when I cried to him (Ps 22.22-4).

In the mouth of Christ, these words would anticipate his resurrection. Christ knew he had to die, but he knew also that he would rise from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures (e.g. Mark 8.31). As Peter says, Christ entrusted himself to God:  When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly (1 Pet 2.23). Though darkness would come for a moment, the light would overpower it and would eventually triumph. Thus in Christ's recitation of the beginning of the psalm, he already anticipates the middle verses, in which God's deliverance of his servant is promised.

But there is more than that. This deliverance by God will have global consequences:

All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations (vv. 27-8).

This act of the resurrection of Christ, the redemption of the LORD's servant, will result in the conversion of all the families of the nations. The world itself will remember and turn to the LORD. Thus Christ told his disciples: I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12.32).

Good Friday is a time to reflect upon the sacrifice of Christ, who gave himself for our sins (1 Cor 15.3; Eph 5.2). This sacrifice won deliverance from sin and death and destruction. His resurrection, on the other hand, began a new trajectory of the universe, one guided towards heaven by the upward call of God (τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, Phil 3.14).