October 19, 2017

Stations of the Cross: The Ninth Station

A Series for Holy Week.
Thanks to Jeff Dunn for leading us in these meditations.

THE NINTH STATION
Jesus falls the third time.

Scripture

My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

Psalm 22: 14, 15 NLT

Meditation
Jesus saw this day approaching. He knew—he knew!—that this psalm was foretelling his own death. And yet…and yet, he still willingly went forward to become the sacrifice for our sins, the only sacrifice that would satisfy God forever.

The wooden cross had been taken from his shoulders, but the cross of the sins he would die for could not be carried by anyone but Jesus. The physical brutality, the awfulness of the torture he had endured, the shame of walking nearly naked through a jeering crowd, all of this weighed him down and could be counted as the cause of his first two falls. But this third fall was from something much harder, much crueler, much more hellish. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was now being counted as a sinner—The Sinner—and thus was experiencing what we should experience: separation from the presence of God. The Son loved the Father, and the Father the Son. But now, the Father turned away from the Son, for he could not look on sin. The Son, whose greatest pleasure was sneaking away so he could spend time talking to his Father, was now on his own. And the weight of this separation drove him once again into the dust.

Action
Think of the one person who loves you the most, be it your spouse, your mother or father, your best friend. Now imagine this person suddenly turning away from you, saying they can never talk with you or see you again. And the reason they are abandoning you is all because of you. How would this make you feel? How empty and lonely would you be? Would it cause you to stumble and fall into the dust?

Prayer
Jesus, we know hurts and abandonment in this life, but we do know them to the extent it was laid on you as you walked up the lonely hill to your cross. How you kept walking is beyond us. It doesn’t surprise us that you stumbled and fell. It does amaze us that you got back up. You suffered the abandonment of your Father because of your love for us. This does not make sense, Lord. It is beyond us to comprehend. We begin to see a bit more clearly just what our selfish sinfulness cost. We respond, Jesus, by receiving your free forgiveness. Our only response through our tears is to say “Thank you.” We can say or do nothing else.

Chorus
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Comments

  1. I have enjoyed having access to these meditations. This one has a few common, but incorrect ideas.

    First, the meditation says, “The Father…could not look on sin.”
    What? God looks at sin all the time. He sees sin constantly. Satan himself enters the throne room of God and they have conversations! God did not turn from Jesus because he couldn’t look on sin. That is a ridiculous idea that has unfortunately entered evangelical narrative.

    And second, Psalm 22, which begins with “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” also ends with this: “But He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one. He has not hidden his face from him, but he listened to his cry for help. ”

    From this passage, it seems clear that God did not hid his face from Jesus.

    It seems that suffering in this life can include feeling forsaken or abandoned by God. That’s what Jesus felt and said. But God promises that we are not. He sees our suffering, just like he saw Jesus suffer.

    And God did not turn away from the Son.

    • Craig Bubeck says:

      I beg to differ, EK.

      While I appreciate that there is a literal sense in which what you contend is true, there is a figurative sense in this language that is purposefully employed by God’s Word itself for the purpose of conveying the significance of relationship. This reminds me sometimes of discussions about how sin (or hell, for that matter) can represent separation or independence from God, when God is of course omnipresent. Where could one ever hide from the omnipresent God, the argument goes.

      But this is apples and oranges. This issue is about relationship, not proximity. A divorced couple can be standing in the same room, side by side, and yet we understand the more profound meaning when we describe them as worlds apart. So much more so with regard to ours and God’s relationship.

      The prophet Isaiah puts the true state of sinfulness in just such relational terms (59:2).
      But your iniquities have separated
      you from your God;
      your sins have hidden his face from you,
      so that he will not hear.

      We might protest to Isaiah, “Where could one ever be separated from God” or “just what scenario could literally prevent God from hearing anyone?” But we know his meaning, and the figurative truth here is far more profound than any literal illustration one might contrive.

      What is being described here in Jesus’ suffering is the crux of his “passion” at Gethsemane, for instance. The physical suffering that awaited Jesus paled in comparison to the profound spiritual suffering that God the Son would face when he became separated from God relationally, because of sin. It is the Greatest of all Divorces, temporally, that God took upon himself for our sake.

      EK is right that God sees us in our suffering, and God literally saw what Jesus experienced on the cross. But relationally, the true significance of what sin is (independence/separation from God, far more than merely missing the mark . . . which is merely the consequence of the fundamental relationship problem) is better represented in Isaiah’s (and in term’s of Jesus’ propitiation, this station’s) representation–alienated in accordance to the sinner’s will.

      Our sins are figurative blinds that we have constructed that would prevent God from seeing us as his children . . . all-seeing though he is, God relationally turns away as we so desire.

      • So you both add to a fuller picture of what is still a divine mystery. The Father never leaves the Son and is ever present to his suffering but the weight of OUR sin Jesus bore on the cross for us separated him from his eternal union and communion with his Father because sin separates us relationally from God.

  2. This is beautiful. Thanks for posting it.

  3. J. Oxford says:

    MOD NOTE: Edited for length.

    This subject is simply not a mystery and is very clearly seen. Not to say that all things in the Bible are clearly seen but this one most certainly is. You must learn to interpret the Bible with the Bible.

    God the Father did not turn His back on or break His relationship in any way with Christ the Son. A thorough reading of John Chapter 17 makes this abundantly clear. Also consider John 10:30 where Christ says, “I and the Father are One.” The last clear proof is Psalm 22 in light of what was said at the crucifixion and by whom. Let’s investigate:

    One must consider the circumstance at the cross. Listen to the jeers: Read MATTHEW 27:39-44, MARK 15:22-32, and LUKE 23:32-43

    O.K. We’ve read through the jeers against our LORD recorded in the New Testament while HE was on the cross. Now let’s go back and consider Psalm 22 the 24th verse (interpret the Bible with the Bible) :

    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.

    Because Psalm 22 is a movingly accurate prophecy of the crucifixion of Christ to include the atmosphere and attitudes surrounding it we must therefore see the above verse 24 taken from same as very victorious and positive clearly indicating that the Father did not “turn HIS back” , even for a moment relationally or otherwise, on HIS obedient SON (…obedient to the point of death. Philippians 2:8).

    How could Christ have forgiven the thief on the cross if HE had BECOME a sinner and the Father had turned HIS back on HIM. This simply does not make since. One might argue that the “turning of the back” came only for a second or two and Jesus was not considered a sinner by the Father at the time he was forgiving the thief. God darkened the sky for 3 hours which is when those who believe that God turned HIS back on Christ typically think HE did this unthinkable thing. I suppose you could argue all day long as to when Christ forgave the thief; before the darkness or after the darkness. But then we become quite literal don’t we. Ooops…did I say literal. Isn’t being literal about the Bible sinful and an automatic Biblical argument looser. Well if that’s true then the people who believe that God turned HIS back on Christ while Christ was on the Cross better get on their hands and knees and repent post haste because they are being totally literal just because of the darkness God cast upon the earth while Christ was being crucified.

    Christ is surrounded by an evil crowd. Insults are hurling from the chief priests, scribes, elders, passers-by, and the thieves being crucified next to HIM (until one thief asks for forgiveness). The Roman soldiers are mocking HIM and gambling for the clothes off of HIS back. All appears to be lost as it did for David in Psalm 22. But then along comes the black and white “literal” verse 24 in Psalm 22 which gives GOD’S grace and answer to David’s (to whom GOD promised that the MESSIAH would be a descendant of no less) prayer. When Christ cried out “MY GOD, MY GOD. why have YOU forsaken ME,” HE was not expressing doubt or a “feeling” of abandonment resulting from a severed relationship with the FATHER. HE was referring the very Biblically literate scribes, chief priests, and elders to Psalm 22 (remember that this is the first sentence in this psalm) because they knew the psalm ended in victory for David, Christ ancestor and METAPHORICAL parallel. Christ death WAS HIS VICTORY. “MY GOD, MY GOD, why have YOU forsaken ME” is a warning to the Jews that they are witnessing a VICTORY…..not a defeat. Again, read psalm 22.

    Also, considering the jeering evil crowd; if THE FATHER had severed HIS relationship with the SON by feeling or in reality, would that not have justified the crowd even for that moment. We all know that the Father would never have allowed this crowd to be justified in any way. Christ prayed in the garden prior to the crucifixion to the point of sweating blood. An angel was sent to comfort HIM. HE eventually rose up with complete resolve, confidence, and peace to continue doing HIS FATHER’S will. When Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant at the arrest Jesus said to him, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” Sounds like resolve to me with no fear of separation of relationship, actual, or otherwise.

    Folks, read the crucifixion from all the gospels several times and read Psalm 22 several times and pray before you do so. Keep in mind who David is and who Christ is in relation to David. Read John Chapter 17 several times. There is simply no concluding that the FATHER has EVER turned HIS back on THE SON.

    Thanks.