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"The Cries at the Cross"

Good Friday Worship - April 18/14

Ps 22:1-8,15-19,23-24,31; Mark 15:22-39

"1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. 4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8 "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."...15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help ... 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help... They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-- for he has done it."

"22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. 25 It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 28 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!" 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! 32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. 33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah." 36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!""

Someone's crying out there - do you hear it? Someone's crying out at the cross. A cry that reverberates, echoing back over a thousand years, and calling down the corridors of time ahead over 20 centuries. What does this cry mean? 

A cry is a communication, a transmission of meaning, a message. Now I love getting messages. Our culture is flooded with messages. I enjoy texting, emailing, Facebook messaging, Direct Messaging in Twitter or LinkedIn, getting a BBM, chatting with the family over Google Hangout or Skype, calling Thailand or England over a VOIP line, making a quick call on the cell phone, or even that old fashioned method - a phone call over the plain ordinary landline! But not one of these forms of communication comes close to the punch Jesus packed in His cries from the cross that fateful day at Golgotha, the day we Christians call "Good Friday". What did His message mean?

Mark tells us the events of that day in barebones style. From the third hour to the ninth hour (9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon) there were lots of messages being communicated in front of the cross - all one-way, all negative. Crosses were often placed near roads for maximum deterrent effect - travellers could almost look in the eyes of those writhing up and down, struggling one moment to catch their breath, the next to relieve the pain shooting up their whole nervous system. Mark records the passersby hurled insults at Jesus, criticizing Him for threatening (though He didn't) to destroy the temple yet not being able to save Himself.

A second category of those calling out were the chief priests and teachers of the law - Mark says they "mocked Him among themselves." "He saved others - but He can't save Himself!"

A third class was those crucified on the right and left of Jesus. Mark says they also, those who were co-condemned with Christ, "also heaped insults on Him." Do you hear all the one-sided crying out, the name-calling, the mocking and insults? For six hours it continued, without any response from the Man on the middle cross. "Cat got your tongue, Jesus? Where's all those marvelous teachings now?" What's this - the most profound ethical Teacher of all time had nothing to say? Strangely, He kept silent - He did not answer back or try to counter the taunts.

Finally, after 6 long gut-wrenching hours of this, "Jesus cried out in a loud voice: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

What's this mean? Is Jesus railing against His Maker, lashing out bitterly against God for letting such injustice happen? That would be understandable, but it's not so simple. What's it mean?

Ironically, the only thing Jesus cries out from the cross in both Mark's and Matthew's account gets misunderstood. They miss the meaning of the message! Some bystanders mis-hear "Eloi" and suppose Jesus is calling Elijah - it was commonly thought that Elijah would come in times of need to protect the innocent and rescue the righteous. One man offers Jesus wine vinegar to drink and suggests, "Let's see if Elijah comes to take Him down."

And then Jesus gives just one more communication: "With a loud cry (Mark records), Jesus breathed His last." Really? Is that it? Nothing more to say? A second cry that's not even intelligible? What are we to make of the significance of this event unless You tell us more what it's all about?

Wait a minute. Jesus' cry turns out to be a quotation from the well-known 22nd Psalm. To the Biblically-trained ear, it's sort of like Jesus shouted out a Scripture reference: "John 3:16!" That would have meant a whole lot - we can go back and look up the passage and see how it relates to the event.

There are cries in Psalm 22 that echo uncannily with what was happening before the eyes of the disciples standing there watching Jesus die. Cries that resonate with our everyday human experience. Do you ever cry out in frustration, when things don't go as well as you expected? Do you cry out when others malign or insult you or turn on you? Do you cry out when enemies seem out to get you? Do you cry out when you're all alone and feel deserted? Do you cry out when you're in intense physical pain? Then hear Jesus, through the pen of David the Psalmist, cry out along with you. Hebrews 2:17f "He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God...Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted." Heb 4:15 "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses..." He knows your cry, He cries out with you in all the brokenness and disappointment of your human existence.

Ps 22:1-2 "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent." Why was Jesus feeling "forsaken" by God? Why did God seem so far away, not answering? God in holiness made Jesus who was absolutely sinless to be sin for us, so that we might become righteous through faith in Him, relying on what He was doing there on that cross. God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, not counting our sins against us - but somebody had to pay! (2Cor 5:19,21) Paul wrote, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." (Ro 3:23-25) God laid our iniquity, our guilt, our shame on Jesus - He was distanced far so we could come near. Hence the curtain of the Temple being torn in two right after Jesus' loud cry and death - the barrier to the Holy of Holies was removed.

Ps 22:5 recalls Israel's ancestors from Abraham down to Moses and Joshua whom God delivered: "They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." That cry WAS answered; Jesus is hinting, "THAT'S the kind of God I trust."

The next section of the Psalm bears an uncanny connection to the events of Good Friday, which took place some thousand years after David authored it. V7 "All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads..." V14 "All my bones are out of joint" - being hung vertically by your hands for long periods of time will do that to you! V15 "My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth" - hence the man offering Jesus some wine vinegar to drink. V16 especially: "they have pierced my hands and my feet." Doesn't that sound exactly like crucifixion? V17 "People stare and gloat over me." Crucified naked, ashamed. But Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame, to sit down at God's right hand (Heb 12:2).

And in case you had any lingering doubts, v18 of the Psalm spells out exactly what the Romans did at Golgotha: "They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." Did you know Jesus hung there stark naked, bleeding, dying, to win for you a clothing of eternal glory and righteousness? Jesus promises to clothe His followers with "power from on high"; after we die to be "clothed with our heavenly dwelling"; the Bible says you who are baptized into Christ "have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Lk 24:49; 2Cor 5:2; Gal 3:27). He perished there in such a shocking, forsaken manner, so we sinners could have our perishableness "clothed with the imperishable."

Yes, there are cries at the cross. Cries and taunts of mockers and insulters. A loud cry from an innocent Rabbi, unjustly condemned, tortuously slaughtered. But His cry does not go unnoticed; in the end, God has not forsaken Him. V24 in the Psalm hammers home just what was going on: "For [the Lord] has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; (look at the cross of Christ, that's exactly what you see - the suffering of the Afflicted One!) [the Lord] has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his CRY for help."

The people standing nearby may have misinterpreted Jesus' final cry - but God got the message loud and clear. The Resurrection on the third day was proof God did not disdain or discount the suffering of His beloved Son. Paul writes, "[Jesus] through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead..." (Rom 1:4) And there was even one person present at the scene who caught the significance of Jesus' cry and all that happened that grim day: Mark 15:39 "And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!""

Do you hear His cry? Do you hear how it encompasses and gives meaning and purpose to all YOUR cries, your suffering, your unfulfilled yearnings in life? Do you hear how it spares you from the cries, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, of an eternity cut off forever from God, the source of light and love? Receive Him who cries for you.