Text: Psalm 22:1
Date: Good Friday + 4/3/15
Last night the preparation of our Lord’s offering of Himself as the sacrificial victim for the salvation of the whole world was dramatized by the stripping of the altar. Tonight only the crucifix draped in black remains. It will also be stripped before we run away into the night. As the altar was stripped we heard the words of the psalm of David, Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In these words David prophesied the heart of the gospel of salvation, namely, the endurance by our Savior of the complete abandonment of God for us, the ultimate punishment of sin the punishment we deserve.
Jesus spoke this prayer on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” because the suffering was real, very real, and very mysterious. For if Jesus is God, as we say, how could God forsake or abandon Himself? Yet this is the hell He endured for us, in our place, the hell we really deserve. What can be more hopeless than God withdrawing His presence from us leaving us without any hope of deliverance?
Yet this night we recall that it was all about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” The cruel cross is, finally, all about the love of God.
There is an old hymn of anonymous origin but generally attributed to St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) written about 1546. It was written in Latin. “O Deus, ego amo te,” translated, “My God, I love Thee.” I first heard this hymn, in a setting by Jane Marshall, sung by not a Lutheran but a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMS) choir. Musically it was emotionally moving. But it was spiritually moving because of the inspired text. On this Good Friday, let it sum up and express our own faith.
My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for Heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
May eternally die.
Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself; and all for man
Who was Thine enemy.
Then why, O blessèd Jesus Christ
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning Heaven,
Nor of escaping hell.
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Nor seeking a reward,
But as Thyself hast lovèd me,
O everlasting Lord!
E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my eternal King.