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16 April 2014

Jesus on the cross: Reflection 4

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34

by Mark Meynell

Journalist Michela Wrong travelled throughout Democratic Republic of Congo in the last years of the Mobutu regime.

In her book, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, she describes her arrival in Kinshasa: "When the motor-launch deposited me in the cacophony of the quayside … I was hit by the sensation that so unnerves first-time visitors to Africa… when white, middle-class Westerners finally understand what the rest of humanity has always known - that there are places in the world where the safety net they have spent so much of their lives erecting is suddenly whipped away, where the right accent, education, health insurance and a foreign passport - all the trappings that spell 'It can't happen to me' - no longer apply, and their well-being depends on the condescension of strangers"

One person who supremely had the right to the trappings of "It can't happen to me" was Jesus. He was the God-man more than entitled to heaven's glories because of his identity, character and perfection.

But at the cross, he endured the desolation of heaven's antithesis: ruthlessly cut off from friends; brutally executed by His subjects; and worst of all, forsaken by His heavenly father, with whom He shared unique and unimaginable intimacy.

So He gasps King David's words of desperation from Psalm 22. But crucially, while David felt forsaken by God (but wasn't), Jesus felt forsaken by God but was. It was temporary, of course… but it must have felt like an eternity.

And it was all for love. Love for God, love for us. It's what Luther called the glorious exchange: He became sin for us, to enable us to share His righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21)

This is why Christianity is not advice but news, and why the cross must be more than a model of sacrifice. It's a rescue mission.

Mark Meynell is senior minister (training) at All Souls Langham Place and author of Cross-Examined (2005, IVP)
Words of Jesus on the cross Holy Week reflections series