Christ at the Column is a small painting by Antonello da Messina, and finished around 1475. By showing Christ in pain, when the tortures have just begun, Antonello managed to obtain great impact. His attention to detail is seen in the sweaty hair, the beard (each hair of which can be distinguished), the half open mouth, in which teeth and tongue can be seen, the first stripes of blood marking the face, the perfectly transparent drops.
Matt 27 45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).
Deuteronomy 31 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 ‘I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross the Jordan.” 3 The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. 4 And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
Christ’s ordeal had stretched on hour after hour. He had been arrested, cuffed, beaten, stripped, mocked, and flogged. From this agony he cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
This is the sobbing of a child who did not know how much more abuse he could withstand. See, too, the response of his Father. From heaven his longing Father reached down toward his hurting son for “he will never leave you nor forsake you”. This cry from the cross illustrates the humanity of Christ, but so much more. If the human Jesus was hurting in the midst of all this pain, the divine Christ must have remembered all that being Emmanuel meant.
This cry comes from the Psalm 22. As a boy, this psalm was only worship liturgy. On the cross it became a part of Jesus’ dying appeal to his Father. When sung it in the synagogue, it was a reflection. On the cross it became a question from God’s broken Son: “Father, have you forsaken me?”
If you must have an answer to this the answer is “No.” God does hate sin. When Jesus bore the sins of the ages, God felt a remoteness that led him not to look on his Son; but he was with Jesus at every moment of his dying.
Best of all, here is Jesus’ promise in your hard times. He will “never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Is your own cross hard to bear? Is your dying an unspeakable agony? Go ahead and cry, “Elf, Eli, lema sabachthani?” God’s answer to you is also a resounding “No.”
Lord, thank you for being there when life hurts. Just as you never left Jesus, I know you will not leave me. Indeed, you cannot leave me without making Hebrews 13:5 a lie, and you are the God who cannot lie!