The Wound of Abandonment: Matthew 27:45-48

How many are the wounds that we have inflicted on our Savior during His Passion, His suffering and death!  Together, we have pondered the wounds of betrayal, apathy, denial, and mockery.  We have seen ourselves, our own lives, reflected in Judas, the sleepy three, Peter, and the soldiers.

Yet of the wounds that our Lord received, none had cut so deeply, hurt so fully, or weighed on Him as heavily as the one we ponder today.  But it was not we who inflicted this wound.  It was from His Father.  What was this wound?  It was the wound of abandonment.

We have come to a hill called Golgotha, to a cross where a carpenter from Nazareth, the Son of God, was crucified.  Over the six hours on the cross, Jesus spoke seven times.  In the first three times, Jesus spoke early in His crucifixion.  Then starting at noon, darkness fell over the land.  This was not some eclipse, for it lasted three 3 hours.  And for those three hours, Jesus suffered silently in the darkness.

Then, Jesus broke the silence with His cry, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?”  No doubt, you have sensed such abandonment when one problem after another has overwhelmed your life.  You have felt your prayers went no higher than the ceiling.  Your spiritual life has turned into dry desert, and you feel as if God has left you high and dry.

Yet, even amid your feelings of abandonment, God has not abandoned you.  He has not shut His eyes or ears to your needs.  Oh, you may feel forgotten, but God never deserts you.  But for Jesus, something else was taking place.  He didn’t feel abandoned.  He was abandoned.

For on that Friday afternoon, unlike any other time in human history, God had abandoned someone–His Son.  Jesus was separated from the living and the dead, fully alone, and filled with the unending ache of loneliness.  A sudden emptiness darkened His shadowed eyes.

It was then, much more than afterward, that He died.  That is the result of sin.  It is not merely a matter of murder, adultery, or gossip–of something to do or not to do!  It is always a bitter and separating loneliness.  It is when you separate yourself from God.  It is a deliberate turning away from the Truth, Jesus Christ.

Yet, in Christ’s loneliness and abandonment, we see redemption.  He took all that into Himself, alone there in the dark.  He became sin for us, so, in Him, we might become the righteousness of God!

Dearly beloved, God has placed all the sin of the world on the Lamb of God.  And Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, takes it all and owns it as His own.  He experiences in Himself what every one of those sins demands: “Leave Me alone, God!  Go away from Me!  Leave Me be!”

That is the bitterest dregs of the cup that Jesus will drain down for us in its entirety.  He will taste hell.  He will taste it all for us.  He will know the loneliness so deep that its pain is unimaginable for us.

How can we begin to understand what it was like for Him in that moment?  The Eternal Word, who had delighted in the Father’s presence before the ages came into being, is alone.  The Eternal Word, who took on flesh from the Virgin without ever leaving the presence of His Father, is alone.  The Word made flesh, who lived among us, as God intended us all to live, is alone.  The One who is aware of His Father’s never-failing love and the presence of His guiding hand is alone.  Jesus is alone, fully alone.

People joke about hell, saying, “Well, at least I’ll have others there with me, keeping me company.”  They are wrong.  Think of the parable of “Lazarus and the Rich Man.”  In that parable, the rich man is alone.  But Lazarus has angels to keep him company.  He has Abraham, to whom he is so close that he lays his head next to Abraham’s heart.

Not so for the rich man; he hungers and thirsts for human touch!  He cries out, “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool off my tongue, because I am suffering in this fire” (Luke 16:24).  But what do we find?  No visit relieves the terror of the rich man’s solitude.  He is alone, fully alone.  And he will be alone forever.

Ponder that loneliness and you will begin to understand the reality of hell.  Ponder that, and you will see its true terror.  Ponder that loneliness and you will bow in love before the Savior, whose love for you was so strong that He chose to enter that loneliness Himself.  He endured it in your place, so He might set you free from it forever–never alone, never again!

Jesus endured the wound of abandonment that our every sin demands of God.  Because He drained the cup down to its last and bitterest dregs, you can now pray to Him, knowing that He hears you.  “My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door; then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!  When soul and body languish, O leave me not alone, but take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!” (LSB 450:6).

Do you see it now?  You will never have to know what Jesus went through in those darkest hours.  You will never have to face life, suffering, or death alone.  He has made sure of it.  He will be with you.  He will walk with you every step of the way, undoing hell itself, destroying death, and forgiving your sins.

Your Savior, your Shepherd, is with you through the valley of the shadow of death.  You need not fear any evil, for you are not alone.  He is with you.  His rod and His staff they comfort you.  He brings you out from that darkest of valleys into the bright light of the day that never ends in the kingdom of your Father.

Indeed, louder than the loud cry of “My God, my God,” was the sound of a tearing veil in theTemple, the sound of the falling wall between heaven and earth.  Louder than Jesus’ cry of loneliness was the glad cry of those who now had a home again after the long loneliness of sin.

Yes, we continue to wander, grope, and stumble in all the fallen ways of this world.  But now we have a way back to God, beyond Jerusalem, beyond all thought and hope, to the place where the open arms of the cross have become the gates of eternal life.  Amen.