Tens of thousands of people the world over have fallen prey to the suffering that accompanies abandonment. I have observed such hurts in my spouse of 40 years, who experienced severe hurts as a child. I have viewed second hand the hurts that a parent can inflict and the healing that Jesus provides. There is no person the world over who comes remotely close to being able to understand and help as Jesus Christ.
The central person in the Bible is Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth. He has no equal. God is all powerful (Jeremiah 32:17). He is all knowing (1 John 3:20). God is present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12). God is eternal, which means He has always been (Exodus 3:14). Each of the previously stated attributes of God are mind blowing, incomprehensible, and belong to God alone. There is one God and there can be no other. A careful contemplation of the exalted and transcendent nature of God makes the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane all the more astonishing. Consider the account from Mark’s Gospel.
“They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here until I have prayed." And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” (Mark 14:32-35)
We are told that Jesus became distressed, which could be interpreted to alarm or be struck with terror. What is it that could terrify God? Furthermore, we are informed that He was troubled, which could be rendered great anguish or depression. How could the God of creation, One who has no equal, who is always filled with consummate joy and peace be placed in anguish and become depressed? We are further told that He threw Himself to the ground. This is no casual statement in the Greek, it is said of one that is prostrated, or it could be of one under attack of an evil spirit, or to fall under judgment. This word can be used of a person in worship, one cast down, perishing, coming to an end, who looses authority, or no longer has force, or is removed from power by death.
Except for worship, these terms do not fit the person of the God/man that we see in Christ. Jesus is the source of life and by Him all things came into being and are presently are held together and continue (Colossians 1). Jesus is the prince of peace, the joy of the world, and the one who was, and is, and is to come. Even in His humanity He is also Almighty God. However, beginning at Gethsemane He was abandoned by God, deserted by God the Father, and forsaken by God the Holy Spirit. He was left alone and to such an extent that the experience climaxed with those awful words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me (Psalm 22).”
This experience of Jesus cannot be explained in human terms; it is simply beyond our comprehension. What we are told is that Jesus was favored by the Father with the words that came from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in Him I take delight” (Matthew 3:17), and in You I take delight (Mark 1:11). The Father proclaimed His Son’s praises to the world, and to His Son. However, the time came in the Father’s plan when He would forsake His Son. A time when He no longer sang His praises or even took delight in Him. The sky went silent and it became as brass, and there was no voice in Jesus’ heart, not so much as a whisper of the Father’s love. When the last 3 hours of the cross arrived, silence turned into incomprehensible suffering by God’s infuriated response to man’s sin. It is at this point we should weep for the Son of God!
We cannot contemplate the sufferings of Christ because we are finite. We do not possess infinite love for one another, and neither do we exercise infinite justice. At the cross God the Father exercised infinite justice upon His Son that He loved infinitely. Why was Jesus thrown down with the horror of impending suffering as one facing death? The answer is found the character and nature of God and His relationship to Jesus.
Abandonment by a parent or a spouse is extremely difficult because the person that should be the most loyal is a family member. I observed such a case when I pastored a church in Binghamton, New York. I visited a church member, a woman who radiated with the grace of God. I will never forget the twinkle in her eye and the gladness in her smile as she recounted to me how her son had come to know Jesus. I had never observed a person in such a severe condition; his body was mangled to the point he did not look like a man. His ability to communicate was almost nil, only his mother could understand him. I have seen few mothers that loved their son more, when she spoke of him you would think he had won the Pulitzer prize or a gold medal at the Olympics. But what she really cared about was that he knew Jesus. The boys face seem to radiate with the knowledge that his mother loved him and I like to think it was because he knew Jesus as well. I cannot conceive of what it would be have been like for that boy to suddenly have his mother turn on him with a violent hate. And his mother, as incredible as she was, did not have infinite love for her son. What must it have been like for Jesus, who knew the Father’s perfect love eternally, to experience His holy eternal rage on sin compressed into 3 hours.
Jesus suffered as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of men, but He also lived life as a man, so that He fully understands weakness, temptation, and suffering.
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus can empathize with our sufferings, the consequences of our sinful behavior, the crushing weight of our guilt, and especially the heart ache of our broken relationships. Jesus has felt everything we have with the comprehension of God. He understands and He empathizes! Joni Erickson broke her neck when she jumped into the Chesapeake Bay. When lying upon her hospital bed and feeling crushed because she was a Quadra pelagic, her friend said to her, Jesus know how you feel. She replied, how could Jesus know how I feel, to which she said, when Jesus was nailed to the cross, He could not move His hands or His feet. Jesus understands you, and no one can comfort like He can.
Personally, I do not know any other person, Jesus excluded, that can love people like my wife. I have observed her reach out to help people, only to have them turn on her in one way or another, only to have her reach out still further. I could tell stories! What I have observed in my wife is the love of Christ, who took my wife’s childhood pain, and by identification with her in her suffering healed her abandoned heart.
Grace can take a a person’s broken heart, heal it, fill it, and use it to heal others. Jesus understands abandonment better than us all. And He is the only one that can take something evil and turn it into something beautiful. Praise His name!