Matthew 27:45-46, 51-53
From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
I began the week wading in thoughts of the selfless love of Christ on the cross. The time between the famous “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and his last mortal breaths was where I dropped anchor. I pondered the suspension. It is a picture of unprecedented darkness. A place where God seemingly abandons his son by placing humanity’s plight on his back to burrow. The darkest of dark. Abject abandonment and withdrawal of God from earth. As I sipped my morning coffee, I let it sink in.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
A probing question circled up from my warm cup: “Why did Christ (who was above reproach) at the stygian hour continue forward in what must have been a most unusual experience for the Trinity— something completely unnatural— an unbearable separation?” As the only place in scripture where Christ’s words imply triune separation, I imagine it was a new experience for the Godhead. And I presume no person since has experienced that kind of complete withdrawal of God on earth.
And God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
So, feeling naturally “wrong” to his soul which dwelled in unbroken relationship with the Father, how did he move forward? I know, I know…. we can all sputter off the Sunday school responses of God’s will and the obedience of Christ and how he came to save the world, or how he knew God’s way was best, or that he was human and holy and therefore largely different from man. But to be honest, those are all tightly balanced responses. Too categorical. They don’t allow Christ room into the darkest broodings of the heart, and that doesn’t sit with me. I mean, Christ is relatable, real on every level, right? So, I picture one side of Christ wanting to say, “you know, this just doesn’t seem correct because I know the father. He and I are one. We’ve always been one. So is this really what I am supposed to do? It goes against everything my father and I are as one, even against what He has taught me as good and right.”
ONE word entered my mind: love. Yet, to that word a qualifier would come.
Two days later, driving past a small local church, I spotted the outdoor sign: “Love that quits is not love.” What kind of love doesn’t quit, I wondered.
Enter the qualifier: steadfast.
Steadfast perseveres under trial; Steadfast hangs from the side of the cliff when all hope is gone; Steadfast love is not centered around circumstances but rather flows firmly through them. Through the questions, through the storms, through the doubts. Its actions are based on its own identity, and not on the affections of its attachments, OR lack thereof. Steadfast love is no ordinary love.
Only intent love could remain as Christ remained on the cross. And because Christ’s love was not dependent on his object’s affections (i.e., you and me= all humanity) but rather was something originating in him through the Father, he finished well. He kept the course. He trusted the “un-ordinary” love his father used to move him into a deepest, darkest void. At the bullseye of that over-the-top out-of-the-box deeply dark love was me. And you. I don’t fully understand it, but I trust that same love is in me because Christ is in me. And I can persevere in sharing that love with others. I’m not perfect at it, Lord knows. But like the father’s love persists in loving me, I persevere because of the strength coursing through my veins. I keep going because Christ’s love for me kept going at the cross.
Christ’s love in me gets to keep me going.
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Looking around, it’s not hard to hear stories about real struggles. Sometimes people close to us just need to hear someone say, “don’t give up; you’ve got this.” Today, let this be my word to you: don’t give up; keep going. You have what it takes to keep going. Trust God’s steadfast love in you, and keep stepping forward where He leads.