NOTHING, it seems, escapes controversy. Even Jesus on the cross is not spared.
On Good Friday, Catholics will troop to churches or glue themselves to their television sets to hear again the “Siete Palabras,” or Seven Last Words of Jesus.
The seven last words or sayings of Jesus are recorded in the Gospels as follows:
Father, forgive them. For they know not what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
I thirst. (John 19:28)
It is finished. (John 19:30)
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)
Of these, the fourth has stirred some controversy that led to questions like: Did God forsake Jesus? How could God forsake or abandon His own Son? Would God neglect Jesus who faithfully obeyed His will?
Then there are some who claim that God did forsake Jesus because “at that point, Jesus was a sinner.” They claim that the God who is perfect was tainted by sin.
In short, God was either negligent or Jesus was unworthy.
Or it could be something totally different.
Biblical scholars traced the words of Jesus in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 to the Old Testament, specifically in Psalms 22:2, a sacred song.
Jesus borrowed a line from a song. He did not need to say the entire psalm. He only needed to say the opening line.
Psalm 22 is the song of a person oppressed: someone “scorned by others, and despised by the people.”
The author is mocked and encircled by those who want to bring him harm.
Nevertheless, amid the oppression, the psalmist expressed hope in God.
He said, “In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.”
Ultimately, the author urged praise and glory to God.
“You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” he cries out.
He then proclaims that God “did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him”
In all, the psalm expressed anguish, hope and praise to God.
But why did Jesus have to take a line from a song?
Did He run out of things to say?
Did Jesus want to be poetic?
No. Hanging wounded, bleeding and dying on a cross is perhaps not the time to be romantic.
Jesus used the song of the oppressed to deliver a message.
He wanted to tell those who are suffering that “Listen, your song is my song. Your words are mine. I am one with you. I share your pain. Your suffering is my suffering.”
When Jesus was born, He who was divine shared in man’s humanity.
When He suffered and died, He shared the suffering and death of man.
Indeed, when Jesus cried on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was not complaining to His Father. God never took Him for granted.
He was not claiming that He too had become a sinner or shared in the sins of man. God could not and cannot sin.
Jesus was simply declaring the fullness of His name, Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
He is the God who is with us in our joys, our hopes, our pain, our anguish, our suffering.
So, on Good Friday, when we hear the words of Jesus: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He is simply telling us that He is with us.
He is saying that we are not alone and that He is closer to us than we can imagine. /cbb