Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Was Jesus Actually Saying?

So, I have to make a comment about the video I posted yesterday. Yes, I like Stephen Colbert. Yes, I (sometimes) watch his show. He truly cracks me up. I have no idea what his personal relationship with Christ is, but he frequently makes Christian-centered comments and does not apologize for them. Since that really isn't a good way to be popular in mainstream media in America, I have to believe that he believes himself to be a Christian. It's really between him and God though.

Now, one thing that stood out to me during the interview was Bert Ehrman's use of the crucifixion stories as defense of his argument. I agree that none of the gospels tell the exact same story, but I've never really had a problem with that. If four people witness a lecture of any topic, they will all remember different points that stood out in their minds as informative, important, or just mind-provoking. I feel this is the same thing with this particular historical and spiritually monstrous event. One of the scriptures he used in his defense stood out to me.

A few Easters ago, the pastor at the church we were attending did a series of the "Seven Sayings of Jesus from the Cross" leading up to Easter Sunday. It was quite informative, I remember, and I was caught up in every detail he was teaching. However, only one of those sermons stuck with me for the next 3 (I think?) years...the one concerning "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

I had always read it for what it said and taken it for Jesus being in pain and bearing the weight of our sin and enduring the hardship of taking on a physical body to save our miserable selves. There was suddenly a new perspective after this particular sermon though.

Let me preface this by saying that yes...Jesus must have been in terribly excruciating pain. He was not happy about his current situation although He was there willingly. Maybe God did have to turn His back on His Son for a short time because Jesus became sin. Maybe Jesus did feel abandoned. If God had turned His head for those moments, it must have been terribly lonely for Jesus who was enduring not only the physical anguish, but spiritual and emotional anguish for being apart from His Father for the first time. That all makes sense. I won't deny that was happening.

However, maybe either separately or in addition to those things, something else more profound was happening.

Maybe Jesus was telling His followers (and those who were just onlookers) something along the lines of, "Remember who I am."

How so?

Well, He was quoting scripture.

You must remember that the Bible had not been compiled in its current form so there were no chapters and verses to quote scripture by. The psalms were a well-known, often-recited collection of poems that were not organized in any real order. The Jewish people knew them, typically, by the first line of the Psalm itself. For instance, the 23rd Psalm was known as "The Lord is My Shepherd" psalm and so forth.

Did you know that Psalm 22 starts with the very words "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Everyone of the Jewish faith looking on would know this. Maybe His words were meant to bring their attention back to these words. Why would He do that? Lets look at the prophecy contained within those verses (the highlighted items are evidence that things are occurring to Jesus just as David's psalm declared):

Psalm 22
To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Deer of the Dawn." A Psalm of David.

1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
5 They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.
6 But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
7 All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying
8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God.
11 Be not far from Me,
For trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have surrounded Me
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me
13 They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up
like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet
17 I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
18 They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots
19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;
O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
20 Deliver Me from the sword,
My precious life from the power of the dog.
21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth
And from the horns of the wild oxen!
You have answered Me.
22 I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You
23 You who fear the LORD, praise Him!
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from Him;
But when He cried to Him, He heard.
25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;
I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
Let your heart live forever!
27 All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s,
And He rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth
Shall eat and worship;
All those who go down to the dust
Shall bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep himself alive.
30 A posterity shall serve Him.
It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,
31 They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,
That He has done this.

So, my personal conclusion, which others also share is this: yes, He most definitely was in deep anguish in ways that we will never understand. However, I think that in His final moments before death, He was still bringing the message that He was God's Son...He was making it clear, that He was the long awaited one. He was still about His Father's business.

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