The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (8B)

In the Gospels we read that Christ dying on the cross he said “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” Sometimes people think that these are just words reflecting Christ’s sense of abandonment. Some even say that Jesus had lost his faith in his Father. But this is not true. On the one hand Jesus Christ is a genuine human being. Because of this He truly experienced the horrific pain of dying on the cross. On the other hand, He is the Son of God. Because of this He would never lose faith in his loving Father, with whom He is always in contact. However, these words are the beginning of Psalm 22 expressing a deeper meaning. When we read Psalm 22, verses 1-22 we see how well these verses apply to Christ. There is something else which we should understand. To the Jewish way of thinking, when one begins to read a psalm the intention is to finish it even if one could not finish it. So Christ’s beginning words about being forsaken implies the last verses about God’s victory. It is important to read this whole psalm, but to make the argument clear let us look at a few verses from Psalm 22:

Verse 1 – This reflects Christ’s suffering

Verse 18 – The soldiers gamble to win Christ’s garment

Verses 26-28 – This speaks about God’s and hence, Christ’s ultimate victory

 

But we read further in the Psalm we see that it’s not a cry of utter despair, but rather of a prayer in praise of God (22:22-31)

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? [2] O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by night, but find no rest. [3] Yet thou art holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. [4] In thee our fathers trusted; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. [5] To thee they cried, and were saved; in thee they trusted, and were not disappointed. [6] But I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people. [7] All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; [8] “He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” [9] Yet thou art he who took me from the womb; thou didst keep me safe upon my mother’s breasts. [10] Upon thee was I cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me thou hast been my God. [11] Be not far from me, for trouble is near and there is none to help. [12] Many bulls encompass me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; [13] they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. [14] I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast; [15] my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death. [16] Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet — [17] I can count all my bones — they stare and gloat over me; [18] they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots. [19] But thou, O Lord, be not far off! O thou my help, hasten to my aid! [20] Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! [21] Save me from the mouth of the lion, my afflicted soul from the horns of the wild oxen! [22] I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee: [23] You who fear the Lord, praise him! all you sons of Jacob, glorify him,  and stand in awe of him, all you sons of Israel! [24] For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. [25] From thee comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. [26] The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! [27] All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

[28] For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. [29] Yea, to him shall all the proud of the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep himself alive. [30] Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, [31] and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it. (Psalm 22)

In other words, this Old Testament psalm clearly points to Christ’s suffering on the cross, but also to his victory. Of course, when Jewish people read these and other similar passages, they do not think of it as applying to the Messiah. For them the idea that the Messiah suffered would be repugnant. It is only when we read the Old Testament with Christian eyes that we see the true meaning.

In fact, this is one reason to believe the resurrection accounts are true. The apostles were all Jews, so they would never think of the Messiah dying on the cross. If one asks a contemporary Jew about this, he would say the same thing.

But others say that the pagans, the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians had the idea of a dying and rising god. But when we look at their myths more closely, they were usually about a god who died in the winter and rose in the spring. They did not consider these gods to be recently dead men, but rather they believed this was all done in some mystical time. They would never think that their rising and dying god was a recently executed Jewish criminal. In addition, their god never became truly human, that their god was born, lived, died, arose again in genuine human being. For the pagans the human body was something vile, to be escaped from. For pagans, life as an immortal resurrection body would be a kind of hell. But God indeed became an embodies human being in order to raise all embodies humans with him for eternal glory.

Fr. John