(Photo image Phil Whitehouse, “Stone cross,” Colca Canyon (“Cañón del Colca”), July 29, 2004, Flickr Creative Commons)

Psalm 22:1a: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Good Friday is not for the faint of heart.

The day centers on the cross of Christ. It focuses on his excruciating death. It features an imperial act of torture and capital punishment upon an innocent man who came bearing God’s unconditional love to the world.

But in the cross, we see who God really is.

In the cross, we see God is not distant and removed from our world and its problems. In the cross, we see God is not simply finger-wagging and judgmental about our shortcomings. In the cross, we see God is not unmoved and indifferent to our pain and despair. In the cross, we find a God who joins us, is with us, and is for us. And in so doing, at the cross of Christ God saves us.

Early in his time as a university professor, Martin Luther had an awakening experience in studying Psalm 22. Identifying its words with those Christ spoke from the cross, Luther was awestruck at the way our Savior experienced the fullest extent of desperation and alienation from God on the cross. Here Christ suffered completely, identifying fully with us. Here the Almighty becomes the All-merciful. Here the Judge becomes the Judged. Here the God of Justice becomes the All-loving. In Christ the One who knew no sin became sin for our sake so that in Christ we may be saved.

I end with words of the hymnwriter Fanny Crosby:

“Jesus, keep me near the cross, there’s a precious fountain; free to all, a healing stream flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; there the bright and morning star sheds its beams around me.

In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever; till my ransomed soul shall find rest beyond the river.”

(Fanny Crosby, “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” vv. 1 & 3, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, #335.)

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