Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Forsaken Friday

I remember when I was a kid laying awake in the quiet of the night and letting myself get really scared, believing that everyone else on earth *might have...could have...probably...definitely* had disappeared and that I was all alone here on earth. It's a terrifying thought, especially for a little 10 year old.

Alone. Completely alone. Not another soul...anywhere.

I once taught a group of 8th graders, and the lessons included a bit on Hell. And it bugged me that the kids didn't seem too bothered by the thought of Hell, since the bible -  most notably Jesus - spoke about Hell as a place of utter despair, where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Now, I'd been around 8th graders enough to know that it's best not to get too far into describing what "gnashing of teeth" might actually look like, because of the inevitable silliness that will result. Goofy "gnashing" facial expressions, etc. So I tried to sober the room up by giving my own imagined view of what Hell might be like. I carefully gave the disclaimer that this isn't what the bible says Hell is like...this is my own imagining of what the despair of Hell might feel like.

And I took them back to my childhood night terror: What if Hell were a place of total darkness and total isolation and total silence? Where you know you are conscious but there is nothing else. You cry out into the nothing, "is anybody there?" You scream, "IS ANYBODY THERE?" Nothing. Not a sound. Not a soul. And this goes on Forever.

Despair. I shudder even now when I think of it.

I say all of that to make this point: maybe my imagined despair of Hell describes a little bit what Jesus was feeling as he cried out, "Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

His only answer was the forsaken darkness of the 6th to 9th hour, the isolation of having been abandoned by his so-called friends, and from the Father, what I think I would most dread: silence. I will quickly add that I don't believe there was ever a break in relationship between the members of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit; what I am saying is, as Christ took my sin upon himself, he experienced my Hell for me. "He who knew no sin became sin for us..." 2 Cor.5:21 He became my sin and took my Hell. He took my darkness, he took my silence, he took my abandonment. The despair I deserved was heaped upon him on the cross. "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree..." Deut. 21:23.

My 8th graders were not sensitive enough to the despair of Hell, and maybe I've not been sensitive enough to the despair of the cross.

Here on Good Friday, I want to soberly think about the Cross...dreading its shame, and rejoicing in what my Jesus accomplished for me there. Luther called it, "The Great Exchange." Jesus' suffering means I will never know whatever Hell is actually like, be it total darkness or blazing with fire, dead silent or loud with moans of despair.

Since God made him who knew no sin to become sin for me, I became the righteousness of God! Stunning and true and cause to leap for joy at Easter!


  1. Okay, and what I want to know is did they ever ask you to come back and teach again? (tee hee)

  2. haha yes, for five years the Christian school. Hint: Whenever you are on teh Board and the headmaster asks you if you can fill in for a little while, "just long enough for me to fill the vacancy..." just run away... or do a stinky job or you'll be there for five years!

    Actually, I hated to give it up. I love 8th graders!