Mid-week Lenten Service #1

March 1, 2006

Hymns: 140; 402; 174; 654:1,3,6,8

Grace, Peace, and Mercy be to each of you through the suffering of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word of God taken for our meditation this evening comes from Psalm 22:1-5:

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.

Theme: The Savior suffers the agonies of hell, forsaken by God.

In the Name of our Suffering Savior, Jesus Christ, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Earlier in our service we read in our responsive reading the words of Jesus, as He told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to fulfill the things which the prophets of the Old Testament had prophesied about the Savior. When we think of the passion of Jesus, we usually think of what is recorded in the Gospels about the last day and days of His life. There we find a very clear account of what happened to our Savior. But all that Jesus would go through and suffer on Good Friday had already been prophesied very clearly by the prophets of the Old Testament. These prophets had given believers of their time, and of years to come, a clear picture of who the Savior would be and what He would do. We were reminded of that this past Advent season as well as our special services focused on Old Testament promises of the coming Savior.

We call Old Testament prophecies of the Savior “Messianic” prophecies, since they point to the Messiah. There are many prophecies of the Savior found in the Old Testament. But of all the Messianic prophecies we find in the Old Testament, there are none which describe the inner suffering of the Savior in as much detail and clarity as here in Psalm 22. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit David was able to see and describe the suffering of His Savior. Through the words of David we also will see the suffering of our Savior as He took upon Himself God’s eternal judgment of sinful mankind. As we compare this Psalm to the New Testament we will see this prophecy fulfilled in the suffering and the death of Jesus Christ who is our Suffering Savior. May the Holy Spirit bless our study of this Messianic Psalm this evening as we consider how our Savior suffers the agonies of hell, being forsaken by God. Amen.

The opening verse should be familiar to us. It is one of the statements that were spoken by Jesus while He was on the cross. Two of the Gospel writers record for us that, “about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matthew 27:46). Here already in the opening verse of this Psalm we see that Jesus was the fulfillment of this Psalm which was written more than 12 centuries earlier. This verse sets the stage for everything else that we will consider in this Psalm. It shows us just how much our Savior suffered as He was forsaken by God.

That phrase “forsaken by God” has been the cause of much confusion for some. Many say that Jesus wasn’t really forsaken, since God could never forsake someone who continues to trust in Him. In our service last Sunday we studied another Psalm which reminded us of God’s almighty power and His ability to protect us and be with us during our times of distress. We were reminded that God is with us always, no matter where we are or what we are going through. That is something that we take great comfort in, isn’t it!

But if God would forsake His only begotten Son in His greatest hour of need, how can we be so sure that He won’t forsake us as well? How could a just and loving God forsake His only begotten Son at such a time? The answer to that questions is found in the love and the justice of God. What we need to remember is that Jesus was standing in the place of condemned sinners under the divine judgment of a just God. Paul reminds us that God made Jesus, who was perfect and sinless, “to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In order for God’s justice to be satisfied, and full and complete payment for our sins had to be made. Jesus came to make that full payment. As our Substitute, Jesus had to bear upon Himself the total punishment for all our sins. Scripture tells us what the punishment of our sins includes – it includes the wrath of God, the curse of God, death, and the torment of hell. All of this Christ had to suffer and did suffer while He hung on the cross.

So was Jesus forsaken by God? He certainly was! His being forsaken by God, guarantees that we will never be forsaken by God. What our Savior suffered was very real. He was abandoned and even cursed by God as He carried the weight of God’s eternal wrath upon the sins of all people. It is for that reason that the apostle Paul assures us that God does not and will not forsake us, saying, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). We may go through very difficult times, but we can be confident that God will not forsake us.

As the verses of this Psalm continue, we see to what degree the Savior was abandoned by God. The Suffering Savior declares: “Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?” The word “groaning” carries with it the idea of great pain and suffering. Again, the Gospel writers describe the painful groaning of Jesus while He was on the cross. The Gospels tell us that just before Jesus died He “cried out with a loud voice” (Mark 15:37). He was in great pain, but there was no help for Him. Jesus saved us from the pain and suffering we deserve because of our sin, but there was no one to save Him. There was no Jesus for Jesus. He was all alone.

The Suffering Savior continues: “O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.” During His ministry, Jesus demonstrated a wonderful habit of regular prayer. The Gospel writers often comment on how Jesus would wander off to be alone in prayer with His Father. As His sufferings drew near we see this again in greater intensity than ever before, as Jesus awaited His betrayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read about the intensity of His agony there as His sweat became like great drops of blood. Those prayers continued throughout the night and into the morning of Good Friday. They continued even while Jesus was hung on the cross. Even though there was no answer to His prayers, He continued praying.

Two friends were spending some time together working on different projects. The younger began having some difficulty with his project and asked the older for some help. The older boy told the younger to wait for a minute until he was finished with what he was doing. The younger waited patiently for a while and then asked again, and received the same response. “Wait until I’m finished with this.” Slowly the younger boy became more and more impatient. He asked the older boy once more, and when the older boy still wasn’t ready to help, he became mad and stormed away.

Sometimes we are like that younger boy. We ask God for help over and over again. Sometimes we get the help we think we should and sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we may get upset with God. But not Jesus. Even though He was suffering the agonies of our sin, our death and our hell, even though God had forsaken Him, He shows no anger of His own, but continues to do what He had come to do with perfect obedience. He even declares: “But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. Jesus knows the justice fo God. Through this obedient suffering, Jesus our Savior secured our eternal rescue, changing God’s eternal wrath against Him into our eternal grace!

God had the power to deliver Jesus, but wouldn’t. Out of love for us, God abandoned Jesus. This is what His justice demanded – that the full payment for sin be made. Because our Savior suffered our hell and our abandonment by God, we can be sure that we will not suffer that same abandonment. The suffering Savior proclaims: “Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.” The result of His suffering and sacrifice is that we have been delivered. When we cry out to God He hears us and He answers us. And most important of all, we can be sure that, through trusting in Him, we will not suffer the agony of hell and abandonment by God but will live with Him forever in the kingdom of heaven!

What a source of comfort the verses of this Psalm are as we are reminded of our Suffering Savior, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for us. God’s great love has done all this for us through Christ! May we always remember the great love that was shown to us in our Savior’s work of redemption. May we ever praise and thank Him for what He endured for us through His sufferings. Amen.

May the Passion of our Savior Jesus Christ which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Nathanael Mayhew