And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We all fear. Some of us woke up today already rattled. Others of us sit now with this undercurrent of anxiety we can’t quite explain but can’t deny. Left to themselves, those fears become all-consuming. And our natural instinct is to turn from God and appeal to some other truth or remedy, going in a thousand irrational, maniacal directions just to console our soul. I know this, because I do this. So do you.
Jesus identifies with our fears on the cross so that we might identify with His trust in His Father. But He transforms our fears when He invites us to, if you will, filter our fears through the cross: to place our fears against what should be our greatest fear—to see them in the context of being utterly abandoned by God and then realize Christ Himself has utterly obliterated that reason for fear. Viewing our fears in the shadow of what His cross did convicts us as it consoles us: convicted that our fears betray our failure to believe He’s solved our greatest fear; consoled that, if He can resolve our ultimate fear, He is more than willing and able to help us face our other fears with peace.
He transforms our glories in similar fashion.
We glory in many things—derive great satisfaction from them. In that there’s no harm. But almost instinctually we find ourselves trying to replicate the successes to preserve the feelings that come with those glories—or we just try to sustain the feelings themselves. In time, one of two things will happen: we let those glories lure us away from God, such that we think we no longer have need of Him. Or we let those glories so define us—tell us who we are and what we’re worth—that when the glories fade, we fade with them. Life devolves into delusion or nostalgia; either way, we’re lost.
Jesus’ transparent speech and death transform our glories by inviting us to filter our glories through the glory His cross purchased us. When simple pleasures or monumental achievements gratify us, we take them to God by reminding ourselves of what constitutes our greatest gratification.
Jesus doesn’t chide us for the satisfaction we find, for instance in our achievements, or our talents, or our children. He is not interested in stealing joy from these lesser glories. Rather, He means to remind us that all the glories of this life are themselves gifts—gifts that point us to a Giver to whom we are then endeared all the more. Viewing our glories in the light of our greatest glory keeps us from forgetting the God from whom all blessings—and glories—flow.
Do you see how fear and glory are inseparably linked? Unless Jesus’ transparent speech transforms our fears from all-consuming to God-endearing, fear will often fuel our pursuit of some glories. And frustration or loss of our glories will create fear. This is a good Friday because Jesus’ death gives us the hope and the power to have rightly ordered fears and glories.
To those of you who may be considering Jesus for the first time, or yet again, His speech to you is His Gospel: trust in what His death did for you, and He will rescue you from all-consuming fears and intoxicating, yet unsatisfying, glories.
And to those who have yielded to Him, but who find themselves beset with lingering fears, or dulled to the glory of God by your own lesser glories, humble yourselves in the sight of God by taking your abiding fears and distracting glories to the foot of this cross. That is your spiritual formation.
We may never get a wholly transparent politician but we shall always have a transparent Lord, who sees through you and died for you anyway.