Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Perfect Recall

"And like a good neighbor..." How many can instantly finish this State Farm jingle that's been burned into their brain? Advertisers exploit the power of memory to bring products to mind effortlessly.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Psalm 22:1.

Most Jews didn't own Torah scrolls. Individually handcrafted they were wickedly expensive. Perhaps they may have owned a small fragment to two. To compensate they employed memorization. Speak a line of familiar scripture and the brain kicked in gear filling in the blanks from stored memory. For those standing around Calvary or who heard the story in detail later, Jesus' words were jaw dropping. The picture Psalm 22 paints was being acted out before their eyes. 

Popular Christian doctrine teaches that while on the cross, Christ, because of taking on all the sin of the world, became abhorrent to God the Father. Jesus was now so offensive, God couldn't even look at Him. I don't believe that's the case at all.

"For he [God] has not despised nor disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help" Psalm 22:24.

By taking on all of men's sins Jesus experienced the estrangement from God that sin produces in the mind. Paul explains this in Col. 1:21. Our evil behavior (sin) causes us to think we're God's enemies and alienated from Him. In that condition, we're tempted to do lots of foolish things. As our "perfect High Priest" Jesus had to experience how this separation felt, otherwise we could look Him in the eye and honestly say, "You don't know what it's like." But He does.

"...But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me alone. Yet I am never alone, for my Father is with me" John 16:32 (emphasis mine).

Never means never. This was part of Christ's Last Supper discourse with the apostles. Because He is one with the Father (John 10:30), Jesus couldn't be forsaken. Knowing this was true He had to, like the rest of us, resist the temptation to give into His feelings of being deserted by God in His greatest time of need. And He did.

His physical condition prohibited Jesus from reciting this psalm in full. He only had to repeat the first verse and those with it stored in resident memory remembered. Standing there they saw the familiar words acted out before their eyes. There wasn't anyway that Jesus could have orchestrated this. He didn't arrange His arrest, and crucifixion meant sure death. No one knew in advance that His mother would be there, that the soldiers would gamble for his clothes or that He would be chided by onlookers to come down from the cross. Where was this Father that He talked so much about? Why wasn't He coming to the rescue?

OMG. The Messiah had come and they missed Him. Now it was too late to undo their actions. This was depressing, but Jesus had the remedy for this also.

"Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing" Luke 23:34.

No need to take an extended guilt trip-all was forgiven.

How about you? How does it feel to have all your sins (past, present and future) already forgiven? How does the knowledge that you are "in Christ" right now help you resist the temptation to believe that God's abandoned you? Jesus knows exactly what that's like because He's experienced the same thing. Just like Him, we're never alone. We can count on that.

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