Alone, alone, all alone,
Alone on the wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony!
The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Live on; and so did I.
Many of us read these words from Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, when we were in high school or college. The two lines that resonate with me as I think about Jesus on the cross are these:
Alone, alone, all alone ...
My soul in agony!
Sounds a whole lot like, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?") (Mark 15:34 TNIV). These words of desperation capture Jesus' soul in agony as he hangs upon the cross. He has been beaten with rods, spat upon, mocked, ridiculed, carried his own cross, nailed down, hung exposed before a jeering mob as his life ebbed away.
In this moment of desperation, he bears the weight of our sin so we could become God's righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is abandoned, forsaken, betrayed, and denied by those who are closest to him. He even feels abandoned by God, the Abba Father he prayed would deliver him from this horrible moment (Mark 14:36). These words of Jesus come from the opening verses of Psalm 22. As you read on down through the Psalm, you also see phrases that speak of Jesus' agony on the cross:
I am scorned by everyone,
despised by the people (Psalm 22:6 TNIV).
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads (Psalm 22:7).
... a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:16).
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me (Psalm 22:17).
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment (Psalm 22:18).
This Psalm is Jesus' story. The Psalm describes what Jesus faces and describes powerfully what he feels as he faces its horror. He knew what was going to happen! He told his disciples repeatedly he was going to Jerusalem to be rejected and killed (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34) and the famous Psalm describes the Lord's journey in bitterly vivid detail. That's what makes Jesus' words to his closest friends so poignant to me:
"A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone ..." (John 16:32).
Jesus went to the cross alone ... feeling alone ... abandoned by his friends. So Jesus words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" are comforting to us when we face unbearable loneliness and we feel that we've been betrayed by everyone. He knows how we feel — not just because he is God and knows everything, but because he has felt it in human skin. God felt distant to him as he does to us. God seems as unwilling to hear his Son's prayers as he appears to be unwilling to hear our prayers. Or as our Psalm says, "My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest" (Psalm 22:2).
But notice what Jesus said to his followers again, and this time we'll finish the thought:
A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me (John 16:32 emphasis mine).
Jesus felt alone ... all alone ... his soul in agony. He even felt abandoned by God. He knew his closest friends would desert him. But, as he showed by referring to the Psalm, that is how he felt: but not what he believed. When you read the rest of the Psalm, you understand why he told his friends, Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me (John 16:32 b). Look at what the rest of this famous Psalm declares:
But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me (Psalm 22:19).
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you (Psalm 22:22).
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help (Psalm 22:24).
In the middle of our struggles, we have a Lord who understands what it means to feel so alone that you feel abandoned by God. He carried the weight of the sins of the world. He was deserted by his friends and he felt abandoned by God. But he believed God would deliver him. He trusted that God would not abandon him, no matter what the circumstances appeared to suggest — no matter how heavy the weight of sin and shame he bore.
What does that mean to us?
It means that when we feel abandoned, we have a Savior who has been there. He went through what he suffered so we could know that we would never be abandoned by our Father (Romans 8:32-39). We can trust that God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).
No matter how we feel, our Savior reminds us that we can believe in God's Word and our Father's faithfulness. Since God didn't abandon his Son when he carried our sins, he won't abandon us in our moments of weakness and brokenness. If the Lord of heaven and earth could cry out honestly in his agony, so can we. And underneath it all, we can say with Jesus, "I am not alone, for my Father is with me."
We often hear that God turned his back on his Son because Jesus was carrying the guilt of our sin. How do you reconcile that with John 16:32? Where do you find a Scripture supporting this concept?
How is it a blessing to us to know that Jesus felt abandoned, but in faith, trusted that God would not abandon him and would be faithful to his promises?
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