The Praise of Agony
Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
“Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani”, the voice of Jesus cried out from the cross. Most scholars agree that those words were written as a Greek transliteration of the spoken Aramaic of Jesus’ day. They also are the opening words to Psalm 22, one of many scriptures often read on Good Friday.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;
by night as well, but I find no rest.
But what did those words mean? Scripture tells us that many who heard Jesus’ cry of despair from the cross, thought that He was crying out for the prophet Elijah to appear and save Him. However, the name ‘Eli’ in both Hebrew and Aramaic is not only a proper name, but a transliteration for the word ‘God’.
Jesus endured the agony of a Roman scourging without crying out. Isaiah 53 records this prophetic truth as it says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” It wasn’t the agony of His passion that caused him to cry out to God, it was the burden of sin – yours and mine.
Again, we hear the prophet Isaiah, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”(Isa. 53:6) It was the weight of our sin that caused Him to cry out as his Father looked away, that Christ would die… the one for the many. As the divine Son of God, Jesus couldn’t die, but in His humanity, he willingly gave up His life to the agony of death. In the moments before giving up his life, He cried out because he knew what it felt like to become as sin and to be separated from His Father.
Psalm 22 prophetically offers us the thoughts of Jesus as he hung on the cross. We hear the agony, pain and shame he felt in becoming the full and complete sin offering for the world…
But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
“He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”
“If he delights in him”? Yes, that is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. The scorners and mockers didn’t realize how prophetic they were. In the pain and agony of all agonies, Jesus still found the delight of His Father’s love to pray for those who crucified Him. When no one else would have strength to think or speak, He took the time to show love and mercy to a penitent thief, and assured him of paradise. He took the time to speak forgiveness to His executioners, and He took the time to care for His mother, and gave her into the care of His beloved disciple, John.
It wasn’t the agony of His passion that caused him to cry out to God, it was the burden of sin – yours and mine.
As you look upon the cross of our crucified Lord this Good Friday, consider Him who though in the agony of all agonies, took time to remember you and to praise His Father – the Holy One who is always enthroned upon the praises of the true Israel. Whatever trials and pain you may be enduring right now in your life, consider the faithfulness of the Father who didn’t forget His son in death, but raised Him to life in glory three days later.
Our God is the “Holy One”. He is the praise of all who are truly Israel. He is the one Who can take our ashes and turn them into beauty.
Shalom for a Blessed God Friday,
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