Sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Larry Maley at Dardenne Presbyterian Church on March 13, 2016
“The Cry of Anguish”
Scriptures: Psalm 22:1-11 and Matthew 27:45-54
Max Lucado provides this account of a woman named Judith Bucknell in his book “No Wonder They Call Him Savior.” The summer of 1980 in Miami was filled with racial tension, riots, looting, unemployment, inflation and scorching heat. In the midst of it all, a Miami Herald reporter captured a story that left the entire area breathless. It was the story of Judith Bucknell, an attractive, young, successful, but now dead woman. She was homicide number 106 that year. Stabbed seven times.
She had kept a diary and, except for that diary, few people would have known the painful story of her lonely life. Her struggles were not unusual. She worried about getting old, getting fat, getting married and getting by. She was not on drugs or welfare. She was not a social outcast. She hosted parties, wore designer clothes, and lived in an apartment which overlooked the bay. At the age of 38, she had failed to connect with anyone; she had many lovers but no one committed to her. She was successful as a secretary, but a loser at love. Half her life was fantasy; half a nightmare. Though surrounded by people, she was on an island. Her suffering was expressed in her diary: “I see people together and I’m so jealous I want to throw up. What about me! Who is going to love Judith Bucknell? I want to cry and sleep forever.” A clear message came from her aching words. Though her body died on June 9, 1980 from the wounds of a knife, her heart had died long before… from loneliness. “I’m alone,” she wrote, “and I want to share something with someone.”
Loneliness! It’s a cry, a moan, a plea whose origin begins deep in the recesses of our soul. Can you hear it? The abandoned child; the divorcee; the widow; the forgotten birthday; the silent phone; the one-night stands; the empty mailbox. Cries of loneliness screaming out all around us. Turn off your TV, you’ll hear the cry. Visit a convalescent home and watch blank-faced people sitting alone in wheel chairs. Listen to the cries of anguish in the halls of our high schools where peer pressure weeds out the “haves” from the “have-nots.” From famous people to failures; from the rich to the poor; from single people to married, the cry of loneliness shouts forth.
Many of you have been spared this cruel cry. Sure, you’ve been upset a few times, heartbroken, and homesick. But drowning in despair – far from it! Contemplating suicide – of course not! Be thankful and pray that it will never happen to you. This morning, I particularly want to speak to those who have uttered those cries of anguish, and I invite the rest of you to listen intently so you can minister to the hurting.
When did your cries of anguish begin? When did you first look into the mirror and see a lonely person? Maybe, like Judith Bucknell, you have fooled everyone. Nobody suspects your loneliness. Your smile is quick; your walk is brisk; and your conversation witty. But when you look in the mirror, you fool no one. Or, maybe you stopped trying to hide it. Maybe you’ve always been outside the circle. Your companionship rarely requested. Am I striking a chord? If I am, God’s Word has a vital message for you.
The most gut-wrenching cry of loneliness and abandonment in history came from a hill called Golgotha, delivered from a wooden cross by a rejected Messiah. “My God, my God,” He screamed, “why have you forsaken me?” Never have any words carried so much pain. Never has anyone ever felt such loneliness.
During His first three hours on the Cross, Jesus spoke three times. He prayed for those who crucified Him: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He assured a criminal hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43). And He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son” (John 19:26). Then suddenly something incredible occurred. A mysterious, terrifying darkness came over the land from noon to 3:00 pm (Mark 15:33). Darkness at what was usually the brightest time of the day. How could that be? Some people standing there might have speculated that it was a solar eclipse – but for three hours! Others figured a sand storm was blocking the sun – but where was the sand and wind? Jesus did not speak a word during those three agonizing hours. The only sound heard was the rasping breathing as our Lord and two criminals struggled for every breath.
After three eerie and excruciating hours of darkness, Jesus broke His silence. All of a sudden an agonizing and terrifying cry pierced the darkness, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”(which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matt. 27:46). Some who heard Jesus’ cry mistakenly thought He was calling for Elijah. They said, “Let us see if Elijah comes to save him”(Matt. 27:49). They were mistaken. Jesus was crying out to our Heavenly Father.
How do we explain our Lord’s pitiful plea? In the Bible, ‘darkness’ is often used as a symbol for sin, death and judgment. Hell is described as a place of outer darkness (Jude 1:13). The darkness surrounding Calvary speaks of the judgment of God against sin. But Jesus was the sinless Son of God. Never once in His life did He sin. He was totally innocent. You and I are totally guilty. Yet, there on the Cross Jesus died for every evil thought that you have ever had or committed. He died in our place. His blood was poured out for our sins. He took all our sin upon Himself.
The Old Testament prophesied that God would place upon humanity’s Savior “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The Apostle Paul wrote that God made “him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that in Jesus we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). For a holy God cannot tolerate sin. For this reason, God the Father, turned away from the Son in that awful moment when Jesus was made to be sin on our behalf. No wonder that after three long hours of separation from the Father, Jesus cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Our sin in all its ugliness was laid on Jesus. Moreover, Jesus’ righteousness was imputed to us.
By His amazing grace, Jesus did something for us that we were unable to do for ourselves. Jesus knew that the final consequence of sin is abandonment by God. So rather than you and I being abandoned by God, Jesus paid the penalty on the Cross so we won’t be abandoned by God. The penalty for our sins has already been paid. Every lie ever told, every murder dreamt about, every adultery committed, every bit of envy, pride, and hatred was laid upon the Savior of the world. Because of Jesus’ death at Calvary, you and I can be forgiven of every sin. Because of Jesus’ death at Calvary, you and I will never have to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We were once separated from God by sin, but Jesus Christ rescued us.
Why did Jesus do this for us? Let’s go back to Judith Bucknell and everyone else who has ever felt complete abandonment and loneliness. Think of all the people who have cast their eyes toward Heaven and desperately cried out to God, “Why? Why this? Why now? Why her? Why him?
Now think about Jesus listening to our broken hearts and shattered lives, and imagine Him holding out His nail-pierced hands, showing you that He understands – that He has walked in our shoes, that He knows our pain, and He once was abandoned so that you might never be alone again. So, go ahead, cry out to Him. Ask Him to come into your life and fill that loneliness that only He can fill – for that is the reason He came into this world.