A Cry of Pain: A Homily for Palm Sunday by Deacon Alan Doty

Photo by Joey Spadoni

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Is this not the most anguished cry in human history? It tears at my heart whenever I hear it. 

 “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 

These are the words that Jesus took on His lips at the depth of His suffering on the cross. His suffering was unique. Jesus offers Himself up for the sins of His people. 

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus, whose every word and action are intended for our education and imitation, chose these words as his last before his death on the cross. 

They were, they are, a cry of pain that is deeper than physical suffering, deeper than death itself. And though the situation is unique, the words are not. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, the psalm we ourselves read a few minutes ago. These words were first uttered by the psalmist David, and David was speaking for all of God’s people. Jesus on the cross as well spoke them for all of God’s people.  

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” David spoke from a place of intense suffering.  His enemies surround him, and his body is in dreadful pain. But more than that, much more, is the fear that God does not hear him and does not care about his suffering. And this is not just the experience of David. It is the experience of all God’s people in the face of terrible trouble. We wonder how our loving heavenly Father can stand idly by when we are in such distress.

Distress and mortal pain, but not despair. That’s important. David’s response and that of his suffering offspring Jesus is prayer. My God, My God. My. God. Even in his suffering and wonder at the ways of God, David does not doubt. In the midst of his anguish, he proclaims faith in God. 

In his last moments before death, Jesus nails our sins, your sins, to the cross with him. He, the fountain of righteousness, took all our sins upon Himself; and He, the author of blessing, endured all the evil pronounced upon us. So likewise, He speaks for us. In his humanity he turns to God as our only help. The psalm continues:  “But you, O LORD, be not far from me;   O my help, hasten to aid me.”

In crying out in the words of this psalm, Jesus calls upon God not for relief of his very human mortal pain. He does not call on God in hope of understanding or for rescue. His hope is expressed in the last lines of the psalm. The mood and tone change dramatically. Agonized prayer turns to ardent praise. “In the midst of the congregation I will praise you”. Then, Jesus our brother calls us to join him in praise: “You who fear the LORD, praise him!”

That Jesus speaks this psalm at the moment of his death speaks of our Lord’s human nature.  He is not ashamed to call us brethren, and to testify to His true humanity. Jesus shows what should be the pattern of our life in a fallen world where suffering is inescapable. The pattern is this: The real and undeniable problems of life in this fallen world should lead us to prayer. Prayer should lead us to remembering and meditating on the promises of God, both those fulfilled in the past and those that we trust will be fulfilled in the future. Remembering the promises of God will help us to praise Him as we ought. As we praise Him, we can continue to face with grace and peace the problems that come daily into our lives.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus’ use of these words encapsulates our history in this world. He teaches us to cling to faith with our last bit of strength and will. He teaches us to hope above all not for this world but for the promises of the next world and to expect that God will answer. There we will join David and all our ancestors in faith to give Glory to God. 

One comment

  1. So beautiful and deeply inspiring. Thank you, Deacon Alan, for your heartwarming reflection, which strengthens my eternal gratitude to Jesus, for His sacrificial gifts to save humanity from sin, and teach us the pathway to eternal peace and salvation in Heaven.

    Like

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