Life is just so full of unanswered questions. I’ve got so many questions that I just can’t seem to find the answers to. Do you ever feel like that? You know, where you just want to ask why… and you just want a simple answer… some help processing what you’re dealing with. You know, questions like, “Why were my wife and I not able to have any more children?” Why the miscarriage?” You know, that bothers me. I’ve got to wonder, I’ve got to ask, why? Why did we try to get pregnant for years, go to doctors, why did we pray and pray with no response. Why?
Or the 18-year-old boy, who’s just graduated from high school, he’s got his whole life ahead of him, and it seems like everything’s on track. And then he dies of a heroin overdose. You’ve just got to ask why? Why is there so much pain, why the heartache… because sometimes you just don’t understand why?
You know, like why did my Mother have to die? She was only 67, she loved Jesus, and we prayed with her, we prayed over her, and we prayed for her. We prayed that Jesus would heal her kidneys, we prayed that Jesus would heal her heart, we prayed that Jesus would heal the infection from the heart surgery. We prayed and prayed for years… lastly we prayed that God would heal her of the lung cancer. Why did she have to die?
And then why did my father have to die of a broken heart? You know the loneliness was too much and he lost the will to live. Why? Why does God answer some prayers and not others? Why do I feel so alone sometimes? You know, God says He’s near, but a lot of times it just seems like He’s so far away. Did you ever wonder why? And did you ever wonder what Jesus felt like… when he was on the cross he cried out, “My God! My God! Why…?” Did you ever wonder?
This morning we’re in our second week of Red Letter Day, looking at some of the last words of Jesus as he gave his life for us on the cross. And so we’re leaning in closer to the cross… we’re reading in Matthew’s Gospel, at chapter 27, verse 45, when Jesus asked his Father in heaven that question we’ve all asked, “Why?”
Let’s read together at verse 45… “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About 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?" (Matthew 27:45-46; NIV).
These two verses are very clear and very descriptive of this event. It was from the sixth hour to the ninth hour, in the middle of the day when it should’ve been daylight, and the Bible says that “darkness came over all the land.” On that cross when Jesus became sin for us, God the Father turned away, He withdrew His presence, and the world fell into darkness. During that time, Jesus cried out some of the most painful, grievous, and lonely words in all of the Bible. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
“My God, My God, Why…?” Why are there so many things in life that just don’t make sense? Why do good people die young? Why do you answer some prayers and not others? Why?
Maybe you’ve been in that situation or you’re in the middle of a challenging time right now and some well-meaning “friend” tries to offer you an over simplified answer to very complicated situation. You know, “Well, the reason why… the reason this is going on is because it’s your fault. If you didn’t have some secret sin in your life… or if you had a little more faith, then this wouldn’t be happening… it’s your fault.” Another person may come up and say, “Oh, I know why bad things are happening to you. It’s a satanic attack.” You know, Satan does attack the people of God; could it be Satan? And then maybe you’ve heard this one… another person will say, “You know, it’s God’s will”.
That’s not much help is it? You know which is it? Is it my fault? Is it a satanic attack? Is it God’s will? Is it one or two of these in combination? The problem is… often there are very complex situations in which we just can’t find simple answers to. But here’s a big idea we need to understand. Maybe you’ve read the book from Rick Warren, “The Purpose Driven Life”? Well, on the first page it says in the first paragraph, “It’s not about you.” Max Lucado wrote a book entitled, “It's Not About Me” following the same idea. And you know I don’t mean in any way to come across as callous or unfeeling, but maybe we’re beginning to learn that self-centered living doesn’t deliver what it promises? You know, it’s okay to ask why, but maybe were beginning to learn that true joy and fulfillment comes through serving others? Isn’t that what Jesus modeled for us? When he was going through the loneliest time of his life, he cried out “Why?” But in the Gospel, he said this… “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
What’s interesting is that as we examine the words of Jesus on the cross, as we look at his life as a whole, we know that from the very moment He was born, His greatest adversary Satan, attacked and often did it through people. Even when Jesus was a little baby, King Herod searched for him to have him killed (Matthew 2:13). In His hometown and in his own house, Jesus was known as a prophet without honor (Matthew 13:57). Once some guys tried to push Jesus off the edge of a cliff (Luke 4:29). People called Him a fanatic, said He was a Samaritan and even demon possessed (John 8:48). They said that He was a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners” (Matthew 11:19).
You see, Jesus came into the very world that he created, but the world didn't recognize him. He came to his own people and they even rejected him” (John 1:10-12). He was falsely accused. He was tortured, beaten, taken to the cross, and even though he suffered greatly at the hands of men, he never once complained (Matthew 27:26-31). In fact, the first words that I can find in the four gospels of Him uttering anything that even resembles a complaint was when He became sin for us, when the world became dark, when the Father withdrew His presence, when he had turned away… then Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why?”
I pray that today we can learn to trust God when all we can see is the darkness that surrounds us? You see, it’s easy to have faith when the sun is shining, but it’s another thing to have faith when darkness settles in and our minds are filled with questions.
One of my favorite stories of faith is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel. There were three Hebrew men named Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego. Or if you’re like me and you’ve watched too much Veggie Tales, then you may know them as Rack, Shack and Benny. You know, that’s what happens when you have as many kids as we do. You know, I was thinking about it and it’s been almost twenty five years that my wife and I have had little children in our home. So I guess in some mysterious way I’m perpetuating my childhood, so anyway these three men, Rack, Shack and Benny are standing before the evil king Nebuchadnezzar, who had built a giant golden idol that was ninety feet high and nine feet wide (Daniel 3:1). And these three men said, “We won’t bow down before it, because we worship the one true God and Him alone.” The King said, “Well, if you’re planning on living beyond today you better bow down and worship my idol.” But they refused and said, “No, we won’t worship this idol.” So the king said, “If you don’t, I’m going to throw you into the blazing furnace alive” (Daniel 3:15).
This morning, I’ve got to ask you, “How real is your faith?” When darkness enters your world, when it threatens to snuff out your joy, how real is your faith? These three Hebrew men said some of the greatest words of faith of all time. Nebuchadnezzar said, “I’m going to destroy you,” and they said, “The God we serve is able to save us… he will rescue us from your hand, O king” (Daniel 3:17). They demonstrated incredible faith, but then they took their faith to even a higher level and said, “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:18). “You know, even if he doesn’t do what we think he should… even if he doesn’t come through the way we’d like him to… even if… “we will not bow down to this false god, because we serve the One true God.”
Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, knew that no matter how dark things appeared, no matter how hot things got, no matter what, that God was still there to walk through it with them. You see they knew that the presence of God would be there no matter what; as the Lord promised Moses, “My Presence will go with you” (Exodus 33:14), as He promised Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5), so the Bible tells us, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were firmly tied and thrown into the blazing furnace. The King who was watching, leapt to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" “Yes there was,” they replied to the king. And I love the king’s reply in Daniel chapter 3 verse 25, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods" (Daniel 3:25). Isn’t that awesome! I love that, there’s Jesus walking through the fire with them and they’re all unharmed. Their hair on their heads was not singed, their robes were not scorched, and there wasn’t even the smell of fire on them!
On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?” And what’s so amazing is that all the physical, emotional, and relational pain that Jesus had endured up to this point, and the only thing that he needed was the presence of his Father. That was it! The only time that he complained was when the Father had to withdraw his presence. And the same is true for us. If we could only see our part in his story. That’s what the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
On this side of eternity, we only see part of the story. In the middle of a pain or a struggle, when I’m asking why, I remind myself that I only see part of the story. When you think about Jesus dying on the cross, when you consider God’s part of the story, where God’s heart was surely breaking as he turned away with the most sacrificing, selfless act of love that you and I could ever imagine. As he loved us so much that he allowed his son to suffer for us and in our place. But the Father has another part in the story.
Let’s look for a minute at some insight that God gave us to His part of the story. The Bible says that, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). You see, we can’t ever forget God’s perspective, that God hates sin, and wherever God finds sin that sin must be dealt with. And so when Jesus became sin for us, when he died on the cross in our place, when he became hatred, murder, gossip, adultery, rape, jealousy, envy, lying, and everything else impure and unholy, when Jesus became that, the prophet Habakkuk tells us, “God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil; He cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). And He had to turn away. His heart was broken, but he had to turn away!
You see, God is so holy that when Abraham caught a glimpse of His glory he said, “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). Job caught a glimpse of God and said, “Now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Isaiah caught a glimpse of the glory of God and said, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5). Simon Peter, when he first caught a glimpse of the glory of God in Christ, fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).
You see, God is so holy that he must judge sin, and he did that on the cross of his Son, the Christ. We understand from the Scriptures that his Son was forsaken so that we could be forgiven. Jesus became sin, died with sin, and was buried, but three days later, God raised Him from the grave, demonstrating clearly that death, sin, hell, and the grave had been defeated. The Son of the living God had conquered our greatest fear, as the Scripture says, speaking of Jesus, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…” (1 Peter 2:24).
Today if you’re asking why, if you’re hurting and you don’t understand, remember that we only see part of the story. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8-9). When I’m asking why, I find it necessary to remind myself that I only see part of the story. Like God says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). His ways, His understanding, His wisdom is infinitely more than we can ever even comprehend. What we see is only part of the story. We’ve got to trust God. He’s here. He’s with us. You’ve got to trust him.
On the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, My God! Why?” But he knew why. He chose the nails; and God would say, “Because of my love.” When you and I cry out, “My God, My God! Why?” God says, “I’ll tell you why. Because I love you… It was for you.”
So as we close this morning, what do you do? What’s your part of the story? It’s simply a choice. Just imagine for a moment, what the Father feels like when we ignore him; when we live our lives without taking notice of what he has done. Just imagine what the Father feels like, when we reject the most sacrificial and loving gift that anyone could ever give. Yet the Bible makes an amazing promise; it tells us that we are all sinners, that the wages, the penalty for our sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).
Jesus became the forsaken one, because he became sin for us. He did something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. So many times, we try to make up for our sin by doing good things by being good people and becoming religious. But the problem with that is, if we could be good enough to work our way to God, then there wouldn’t be any reason for Jesus to come and die for us. But God loved you so much that He sent His Son on a mission to save you and to die in your place. The sinless Son of God, the Lamb of God, was slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29, 3:16).
So the only way that we can be made right with God, to be able to stand in his presence, to be a part of his heaven, is by his grace through faith. It’s simply believing what Jesus did for us. So we just need to be honest with God and acknowledge the fact that we have sinned against him, turn away from sin, turn toward God and say, “Lord Jesus, forgive me, make me brand-new, I surrender all of my life to you.” This isn’t some magical chant, but it is a life decision where Jesus becomes everything to you and the Bible says at this point, that all of your sins will be forgiven. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It will be forgiven and you will be born again into the family of God. Your life in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, will be changed completely, when you take a step out of your sin and step toward Jesus asking him to be your everything.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
March 22, 2015